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Going Off Parole: How the Elimination of Discretionary Prison Release Affects the Social Cost of Crime

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  • Ilyana Kuziemko

Abstract

In order to lengthen prison terms, many U.S. states have limited parole boards' traditional authority to grant early releases. I develop a framework in which the welfare effects of this reform depend on (1) the elasticity of future recidivism with respect to time in prison, (2) the accuracy of boards in conditioning release dates on recidivism risk, and (3) the extent to which such conditioning encourages inmates to reform. Using micro-data from Georgia and quasi-experimental variation arising from policy shocks and institutional features of its criminal justice system, I find that longer prison terms decrease recidivism, boards assign higher-risk inmates to longer terms, and inmates' investment in rehabilitative activities falls -- and their recidivism rises -- when boards' discretion is limited. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the benefits of parole (the ability to ration prison resources based on recidivism risk and the creation of incentives) outweigh the costs (lost incapacitation due to shorter prison terms).

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13380
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13380.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Alice Solda & Marie Claire Villeval, 2017. "Exclusion and Reintegration in a Social Dilemma," Working Papers 1720, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    2. Dara N. Lee, 2011. "The Digital Scarlet Letter: The Effect of Online Criminal Records on Crime," Working Papers 1118, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    3. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 1168, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    4. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 1171, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    5. Maurin, Eric & Ouss, Aurelie, 2009. "Sentence Reductions and Recidivism: Lessons from the Bastille Day Quasi Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 3990, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. McCrary, Justin & Lee, David S., 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2gh1r30h, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    7. 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.
    8. Alice Solda & Marie Villeval, 2017. "Exclusion and Reintegration in a Social Dilemma," Working Papers halshs-01579216, HAL.
    9. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2011. "Prison Conditions and Recidivism," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 103-130.
    10. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2009. "The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 1171, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    11. repec:pri:cepsud:189lee is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare

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