Deterrence and Incapacitation Models of Criminal Punishment: Can the Twain Meet?
The standard economic model of crime focuses on the goal of deterrence, but actual punishment schemes, most notably recent three-strikes laws, seem to rely more on imprisonment than is prescribed by that model. One explanation is that prison also serves an incapacitation function. The current paper seeks to develop an economic model of law enforcement that combines the deterrence and incapacitation motives for criminal punishment. The resulting hybrid model retains the rationality assumption that is the basis of the pure deterrence model, but assumes that offenders face repeated criminal opportunities over their lifetimes. In this setting, deterrence and incapacitation emerge naturally as complementary motivations for imposing criminal punishment.
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