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The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

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  • Francesco Drago
  • Roberto Galbiati
  • Pietro Vertova

Abstract

The Collective Clemency Bill passed by the Italian Parliament in July 2006 represents a natural experiment to analyze the behavioral response of individuals to an exogenous manipulation of prison sentences. On the basis of a unique data set on the postrelease behavior of former inmates, we find that 1 month less time served in prison commuted into 1 month more in expected sentence for future crimes reduces the probability of recidivism by 0.16 percentage points. From this result we estimate an elasticity of average recidivism with respect to the expected punishment equal to - 0.74 for a 7-month period. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2009. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 257-280, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:117:y:2009:i:2:p:257-280
    DOI: 10.1086/599286
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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