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On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence

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  • Polinsky, A Mitchell
  • Shavell, Steven

Abstract

This article studies the implications for the theory of deterrence of (a) the manner in which individuals' disutility from imprisonment varies with the length of the imprisonment term and (b) discounting of the future disutility and future public costs of imprisonment. Two questions are addressed: Is deterrence enhanced more by increasing the length of imprisonment terms or instead by raising the likelihood of imposing imprisonment? What is the optimal combination of the severity and probability of imprisonment sanctions? Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1999. "On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 1-16, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:28:y:1999:i:1:p:1-16
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/468044
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Steven Shavell, 1981. "The Social versus the Private Incentive to Bring Suit in a Costly Legal System," NBER Working Papers 0741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Hylton, Keith N., 1990. "The influence of litigation costs on deterrence under strict liability and under negligence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 161-171, September.
    3. Png, I. P. L., 1987. "Litigation, liability, and incentives for care," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 61-85.
    4. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye, 1988. "Suing Solely to Extract a Settlement Offer," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 437-450, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law

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