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Prison Conditions and Recidivism

  • Drago, Francesco

    ()

    (University of Naples Federico II)

  • Galbiati, Roberto

    ()

    (CNRS)

  • Vertova, Pietro

    ()

    (University of Bergamo)

We use a unique data set on post-release behavior of former Italian inmates to estimate the effect of prison conditions on recidivism. By combining different sources of data we exploit variation in prison conditions measured by: 1) the extent of overcrowding at the prison level, 2) the number of deaths in the facility of detention during an inmate’s stay and 3) the distance of the prison from the chief town of the province where the prison is located. By considering inmates who served their sentence in a jurisdiction different from the hometown in which they live after release, we can include province of residence fixed effects and account for the main source of unobserved heterogeneity correlated to prison conditions. We find that a harsher prison treatment does not reduce former inmates’ criminal activity. The extent of overcrowding and the number of deaths do not decrease the probability to be re-arrested. Instead, we find evidence that the degree of isolation measured by distance from the prison of detention to the chief town of the province where the prison is located increases recidivism.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3395.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3395
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  1. Emily G. Owens, 2009. "More Time, Less Crime? Estimating the Incapacitative Effect of Sentence Enhancements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 551-579, 08.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
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  4. Di Tella, Rafael & Dubra, Juan, 2008. "Crime and punishment in the "American Dream"," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(7), pages 1564-1584, July.
  5. Giulio Fella & Giovanni Gallipoli, 2008. "Education and Crime over the Life Cycle," Working Papers 630, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  6. Ayse Imrohoroglu & Antonio Merlo & Peter Rupert, 2004. "What Accounts For The Decline In Crime?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 707-729, 08.
  7. Lawrence Katz & Steven D. Levitt & Ellen Shustorovich, 2003. "Prison Conditions, Capital Punishment, and Deterrence," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 318-343, August.
  8. Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2007. "Does Three Strikes Deter?: A Nonparametric Estimation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
  9. Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 163-190, Winter.
  10. Joel Waldfogel, 1994. " The Effect of Criminal Conviction on Income and the Trust "Reposed in the Workmen"," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(1), pages 62-81.
  11. Ilyana Kuziemko, 2007. "Going Off Parole: How the Elimination of Discretionary Prison Release Affects the Social Cost of Crime," NBER Working Papers 13380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Levitt, Steven D. & Miles, Thomas J., 2007. "Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
  13. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
  14. Bedard, Kelly & Helland, Eric, 2004. "The location of women's prisons and the deterrence effect of "harder" time," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 147-167, June.
  15. Evans, William N. & Owens, Emily G., 2007. "COPS and crime," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 181-201, February.
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