Does Longer Incarceration Deter or Incapacitate Crimes? New Evidence from Truth-in-Sentencing Reform
This paper estimates how violent crimes respond to a policy change which requires violent offenders to serve a substantial proportion of their sentenced terms before being eligible to release to community supervision. Focusing on states with effective TIS laws which meet the federal 85 percent rule, we utilize the differences-in-differences design to investigate both deterrent and incapacitative effect of TIS on crimes. We observe statistically significant -7 percent deterrent effect of TIS on growth of violent crime two years after its passage. A series of placebo tests confirm the robustness of the estimates and inferences. In the long-run, additional incapacitative effect also becomes significant, making the treatment effect of TIS even greater in magnitude. Even though insignificant in the first two years after TIS was passed, growth of non-violent property crime rates decreases by 7 percent in the long-run in TIS states, indicating relative greater importance of incapacitative effect which locks up offenders who commit both types of crimes. A rough approximation shows that TIS is an economically efficient method to decrease crimes.
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