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September 2, 2010

"Cooperation's Cost"

The title of this post is the title of this great-looking new piece from Professor Miriam Baer. Here is the abstract:

This Article explores the costs and benefits of criminal cooperation, the widespread practice by which prosecutors offer criminal defendants reduced sentences in exchange for their assistance in apprehending other criminals.  On one hand, cooperation increases the likelihood that criminals will be detected and prosecuted successfully.  This is the “Detection Effect” of cooperation, and it has long been cited as the policy’s primary justification.

On the other hand, cooperation also reduces the expected sanction for offenders who believe they can cooperate if caught.  This is the Sanction Effect of cooperation, and it may grow substantially if the government signs up too many cooperators, sentences them too generously, or causes them to become overly optimistic about their chances of receiving a cooperation agreement.

When the government allows the Sanction Effect to grow too large, it undermines one of its key tools for improving deterrence. Indeed, when the Sanction Effect outweighs the Detection Effect, cooperation reduces deterrence, and the government unwittingly encourages more crime.  Since cooperation is itself administratively costly, the policy perversely causes society to pay for additional crime.

This Article reorients the cooperation debate around the fundamental question of whether cooperation deters wrongdoing.  Drawing on economics and behavioral psychology, it provides a framework for better understanding how and when cooperation “works.” Government actors who laud and rely on cooperation must address the fundamental question of whether it actually deters wrongdoing.  To do otherwise, is to leave society vulnerable to cooperation’s greatest cost.

September 2, 2010 at 09:17 AM | Permalink


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How can the abstract for such an article possibly not address the cost of manufactured/false cooperation (including but not limited to the thriving jailhouse snitch industry). This is the source of some of the most unreliable evidence presented in our courts; surely that is a cost that must be considered in any serious analysis of the value of cooperation? It is true that "cooperation increases the likelihood that criminals will be detected and prosecuted successfully." But it is certainly also true to say that cooperation simply increases the likelihood that *someone* (guilty or innocent) will be prosecuted successfully.

Posted by: anon | Sep 2, 2010 9:45:43 AM

Anon beat me to the punch. The article's ignoring of the Credibility Effect diminishes any credibility the article might have.

Posted by: lawyer | Sep 2, 2010 11:39:36 AM

One should remember one is cooperating with history's greatest criminal syndicate whenever doing so with any government lawyer. All out resistance by the innocent defendant has good moral and intellectual justification, including all out legal counterattacks on these cult criminals. It should start with total forensic e-discovery on the work and personal computers of the cult criminals, including the computers of the judge.

Here is a sampling of what can be found:


Next? A campaign of personal vilification with the family, friends, colleagues, and church members has to follow.

Then every utterance should be potential basis for a formal complaint with the Disciplinary Counsel after adequate analysis of the Rules of Conduct. Under no circumstances should the cult criminal live even one day without doubt about his personal future.

There should be no quarter nor compromise with the cult criminal. This is the lawyer harassing innocent people who are not complying with the infinitude of false regulations, and immunizing Muslim terrorists, and illegal alien cartel assassins and kidnappers. This is the cult criminal hobbling and prosecuting our warriors trying to save our nation.

To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 2, 2010 11:13:22 PM

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