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May 18, 2017

"Deterrence and the Optimal Use of Prison, Parole, and Probation"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by A. Mitchell Polinsky and Paul Riskind now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In this article we derive the sentence — choosing among the sanctions of prison, parole, and probation — that achieves a target level of deterrence at least cost.  Potential offenders discount the future disutility of sanctions and the state discounts the future costs of sanctions.  Prison has higher disutility and higher cost per unit time than parole and probation, but the cost of prison per unit of disutility can be lower or higher than the cost of parole and probation per unit of disutility.  The optimal order of sanctions depends on the relative discount rates of potential offenders and the state, and the optimal duration of sanctions depends on the relative costs per unit of disutility among the sanctions and on the target level of deterrence.

We focus on the case in which potential offenders discount the disutility of sanctions at a higher rate than the state discounts the costs of sanctions.  In this case, if prison is more cost-effective than parole and probation — that is, has a lower cost per unit of disutility — prison should be used exclusively.  If prison is less cost-effective than parole and probation, probation should be used if the deterrence target is low enough, and prison followed by parole should be used if the deterrence target is relatively high.  Notably, it may be optimal to employ a prison term even if prison is less cost-effective than parole and probation and even if prison is not needed to achieve the target level of deterrence, because of what we refer to as the front-loading advantage of imprisonment.

May 18, 2017 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

Comments

General deterrence is unlawful. One may not punish a person to scare another the defendant has never met.

Specific deterrence is not possible. Crime is too lucrative, and has too a low a risk of apprehension to deter. The lawyer is allowing 95% of crime to go unanswered. As the solution rate of murder is dropping in specific jurisdictions, its rate is soaring in the same places.

The career criminal commits 200 crimes a year. The damages justify prison at 10 times the current cost. Prison solely for incapacitation is one of the greatest utilitarian bargains known to man. Spend $tens of thousands, see returns of $millions, guaranteed. Adding the devaluation of real estate around a crime scene, the returns are in the $tens of millions. This is obvious to even the most uneducated neighbor. He experiences that effect on the ground. I am not including the monetary value of peace of mind and of not living in fear in these benefits.

Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2017 4:11:20 PM

Done in Europe.

The result:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4519128/Rapist-murdered-therapist-inspired-Braveheart.html

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Posted by: alicia | May 19, 2017 4:22:50 AM

"Deterrence and the Optimal Use of Prison, Parole, and Probation", is it not the whole reason for a penalty to cause a deterrence to any "crime"? How can a Judicial System reform anyone when revenue is more important then people?

Posted by: LC in Texas | May 19, 2017 5:34:11 PM

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