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The Role of Prison in Recidivism


  • Kegon Teng Kok Tan
  • Mariyana Zapryanova


Recidivism rates are a growing concern due to the high cost of imprisonment and the high rate of ex-prisoners returning back to prison. The factors leading to recidivism are multifaceted, but one policy-relevant and potentially important contributor is the composition of peer inmates. In this paper, we study the role of peer e?ects within a correctional facility using data on almost 80,000 individuals serving time in Georgia. We exploit randomness in peer-composition over time within prisons to identify e?ects of peers on recidivism rates. We ?nd no evidence of peer e?ects for property and drug-related crimes in the general prison population. However, we ?nd strong peer e?ects when we de?ne peer groups by race and age. Our ?ndings indicate that homophily plays a large part in determining the strength of peer exposure among prisoners in the same facility. Our ?ndings suggest that prison assignments can be a way to reduce recidivism for particular groups of prisoners.

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  • Kegon Teng Kok Tan & Mariyana Zapryanova, 2019. "The Role of Prison in Recidivism," Working Papers 2019-083, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2019-083
    Note: MIP

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    File Function: First version, October 2, 2019
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steinberg, Matthew P. & Ukert, Benjamin & MacDonald, John M., 2019. "Schools as places of crime? Evidence from closing chronically underperforming schools," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 125-140.
    2. Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson & David Pozen, 2009. "Building Criminal Capital behind Bars: Peer Effects in Juvenile Corrections," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 105-147.
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    crime; recidivism; peer effects; prisons;

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