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What Do Prosecutors Maximize? An Analysis of Drug Offenders and Concurrent Jurisdiction


  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Anne Morrison Peihl


This paper presents a model of prosecutors' decision-making processes in which prosecutors (both federal and state) internalize some of the benefits of reducing crime, but also carte about developing their own human capital. Since U.S. attorneys make their decisions first, they have the opportunity to take the cases that will further their human capital development, knowing that the local district attorneys will handle the other cases. Using two surveys on prison admissions, we find that defendants who are better educated, richer, married, white, have higher-paying occupations, and have less extensive criminals records are more likely to be incarcerated in the federal system. Conversely, state prisons are more likely to incarcerate individuals who are particularly likely to be difficult prisoners, despite the supposed advantages of federal prisons in dealing with the most dangerous criminals.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Anne Morrison Peihl, 1998. "What Do Prosecutors Maximize? An Analysis of Drug Offenders and Concurrent Jurisdiction," JCPR Working Papers 29, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:29 Note: This paper is not available for download

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glaeser, Edward L & Glendon, Spencer, 1998. "Who Owns Guns? Criminals, Victims, and the Culture of Violence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 458-462, May.
    2. Kessler, Daniel P & Piehl, Anne Morrison, 1998. "The Role of Discretion in the Criminal Justice System," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 256-276, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Boylan & Cheryl Xiaoning Long, 2000. "Size, Monitoring and Plea Rate: An Examination of United States Attorneys," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0089, Econometric Society.
    2. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2000. "The Role of Deportation in the Incarceration of Immigrants," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Immigration, pages 351-386 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Francisco González & Carlos Esteban Posada, 2001. "Criminalidad, violencia y gasto público en defensa, justicia y seguridad en Colombia," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 3(4), pages 78-102, January-J.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law


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