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Punishing the Innocent along with the Guilty: The Economics of Individual versus Group Punishment

  • Thomas J. Miceli
  • Kathleen Segerson

Standard models of law enforcement involve the apprehension and punishment of a single suspect, but in many contexts, punishment is imposed on an entire group known to contain the offender. The advantages of group punishment are that the offender is punished with certainty and detection costs are saved. The disadvantage is that innocent individuals are punished. We compare individual and group punishment when social welfare depends on fairness (or retribution) and when it depends on deterrence. We show that group punishment may dominate in the former case if the detection technology is ineffective but never in the latter case. The results broadly reflect the actual use of group punishment in ancient and modern law.

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File URL: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/509274
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 36 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 81-106

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:36:y:2007:p:81-106
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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  1. Nuno Garoupa, 2000. "Corporate criminal law and organization incentives: A managerial perspective," Economics Working Papers 529, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. Shavell, Steven, 1985. "Uncertainty over Causation and the Determination of Civil Liability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 587-609, October.
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  7. Miceli, Thomas J., 1991. "Optimal criminal procedure: Fairness and deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 3-10, May.
  8. Varian, H.R., 1989. "Monitoring Agents With Other Agents," Papers 89-18, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  9. Segerson, Kathleen, 1988. "Uncertainty and incentives for nonpoint pollution control," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 87-98, March.
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