The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence From Prison Overcrowding Litigation
Previous studies of the impact of changes in prisoner populations on crime rates have failed to adequately control for the simultaneity between those two variables. While increases in the number of prisoners are likely to reduce crime, rising crime rates also translate into larger prison populations. To break that simultaneity, this paper uses the status of prison overcrowding litigation in a state as an instrument for changes in the prison population. Overcrowding litigation is demonstrated to have a negative impact on prison populations, but is unlikely to be related to fluctuations in the crime rate, except through its effect on prison populations. Instrumenting results in estimates of the elasticity of crime with respect to the number of prisoners that are two to three times greater than previous studies. The results are robust across all of the crime categories examined. For each one-prisoner reduction induced by prison overcrowding litigation, the total number of crimes committed increases by approximately 15 per year. The social benefit from eliminating those 15 crimes is approximately $45,000; the annual per prisoner costs of incarceration are roughly $30,000.
|Date of creation:||May 1995|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1996, vol.111, pp.319-352.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Levitt, Steven D, 1997.
"Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-90, June.
- Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Policeon Crime," NBER Working Papers 4991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Waldfogel, Joel, 1994. "Does conviction have a persistent effect on income and employment?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 103-119, March.
- Martin Feldstein, 1999.
"Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax,"
The Review of Economics and Statistics,
MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
- Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Schmidt, Peter & Witte, Ann Dryden, 1989.
"Predicting criminal recidivism using 'split population' survival time models,"
Journal of Econometrics,
Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 141-159, January.
- Peter Schmidt & Ann Dryden Witte, 1987. "Predicting Criminal Recidivism Using "Split Population" Survival Time Models," NBER Working Papers 2445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Waldfogel, Joel, 1993. "Criminal Sentences as Endogenous Taxes: Are They "Just" or "Efficient"?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 139-51, April.
- Ehrlich, Isaac, 1981. "On the Usefulness of Controlling Individuals: An Economic Analysis of Rehabilitation, Incapacitation, and Deterrence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 307-22, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5119. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.