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Bayesian Juries and The Limits to Deterrence

  • Ezra Friedman

    (Yale University)

  • Abraham Wickelgren

    (Federal Trade Commission)

We consider a model of crime with rational Bayesian Jurors. We find that if jurors are not perfectly informed, even when there is no limit to the size of the punishment that can be imposed, it is not possible to deter all crime. There is a finite lower bound on the crime rate which results from the difficulties in achieving a conviction with imperfect evidence and very low crime rates. Crime can not be reduced below this rate by increasing the penalty, but the lower bound can be decreased by improving the quality of evidence presented to jurors, or by increasing the threshold of evidence necessary for prosecution.

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Paper provided by Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy in its series Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series with number yale_lepp-1008.

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Handle: RePEc:bep:yaloln:yale_lepp-1008
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Jiang, Neville, 1993. "Are fines more efficient than imprisonment?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 391-413, July.
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  4. repec:att:wimass:8908 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
  6. Arun S. Malik, 1990. "Avoidance, Screening and Optimum Enforcement," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(3), pages 341-353, Autumn.
  7. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
  8. Anderson, David A, 1999. "The Aggregate Burden of Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 611-42, October.
  9. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "The Optimal Use of Nonmonetary Sanctions as a Deterrent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 584-92, September.
  10. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
  11. James Andreoni, 1991. "Reasonable Doubt and the Optimal Magnitude of Fines: Should the Penalty Fit the Crime?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 385-395, Autumn.
  12. Miceli, Thomas J, 1990. "Optimal Prosecution of Defendants Whose Guilt Is Uncertain," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 189-201, Spring.
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