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Deterrence and Incapacitation Models of Criminal Punishment: Can the Twain Meet?

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  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Miceli, 2009. "Deterrence and Incapacitation Models of Criminal Punishment: Can the Twain Meet?," Working papers 2009-25, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2009-25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Miceli Thomas J. & Bucci Catherine, 2005. "A Simple Theory of Increasing Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, pages 71-80.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mitchell Polinsky, A. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1991. "A model of optimal fines for repeat offenders," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 291-306.
    4. Lewin, Jeff L. & Trumbull, William N., 1990. "The social value of crime?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 271-284, December.
    5. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 2007. "The Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Winand Emons, 2004. "Subgame-Perfect Punishment for Repeat Offenders," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(3), pages 496-502, July.
    7. George J. Stigler, 1974. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 55-67 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Miceli, Thomas J., 1991. "Optimal criminal procedure: Fairness and deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 3-10, May.
    9. Glenn C. Loury, 1979. "Market Structure and Innovation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(3), pages 395-410.
    10. Davis, Michael L, 1988. "Time and Punishment: An Intertemporal Model of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 383-390, April.
    11. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1981. "On the Usefulness of Controlling Individuals: An Economic Analysis of Rehabilitation, Incapacitation, and Deterrence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 307-322.
    12. Mortensen, Dale T, 1982. "Property Rights and Efficiency in Mating, Racing, and Related Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 968-979.
    13. Shavell, Steven, 1987. "A Model of Optimal Incapacitation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 107-110.
    14. Lott, John R, Jr, 1987. "Should the Wealthy Be Able to "Buy Justice"?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(6), pages 1307-1316, December.
    15. Levitt, Steven D. & Miles, Thomas J., 2007. "Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Deterrence; incapacitation; law enforcement; prison;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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