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August 29, 2018

"More Cops, Fewer Prisoners?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Jacob Kaplan and Aaron Chalfin now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

A large literature establishes that hiring police officers leads to reductions in crime and that investments in police are a relatively efficient means of crime control compared to investments in prisons.  One concern, however, is that because police officers make arrests in the course of their duties, police hiring, while relatively efficient, is an inevitable driver of “mass incarceration."  This research considers the dynamics through which police hiring affects downstream incarceration rates.

Using state-level panel data as well county-level data from California, we uncover novel evidence in favor of a potentially unexpected and yet entirely intuitive result — that investments in law enforcement are unlikely to markedly increase state prison populations and may even lead to a modest decrease in the number of state prisoners.  As such, investments in police may, in fact, yield a “double dividend” to society, by reducing incarceration rates as well as crime rates.

August 29, 2018 at 11:58 AM | Permalink


If you want a different conclusion pick another state.

Posted by: John Neff | Aug 29, 2018 12:07:09 PM

"As such, investments in police may, in fact, yield a “double dividend” to society, by reducing incarceration rates as well as crime rates."

This isn't difficult to do, 123D.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 29, 2018 5:59:50 PM

This is a similar lie to the one the left uses with the DP. "Get rid of the death penalty and give prisoners LWOP!" Of course, they never wanted LWOP either. The same people fighting the DP are also fighting LWOP.

It's the same here. First, hidden in the weasel language is the fact that incarceration does reduce crime. Second, the same people who want reduced incarceration are repeating the same argument about increased policing. They don't want it. They only want to to use it as a false argument to get prison population reductions and then reduce cops in the field and hamstring them in other ways. Actually, they are not even waiting to show their hand.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2018 6:05:40 PM

It's not difficult to speculate on the reason why increased policing leads to a slight decrease in incarceration. First, many offenses require a degree of secrecy; so more officers in high crime areas decrease the opportunities for the commission of crime. Second, most of the "easy to catch" crimes are unlikely to result in incarceration. And, depending on resources for rehabilitation program, that first arrest for a minor offense may allow intervention that prevents the defendant from progressing to the type of offense that will lead to incarceration. Third, the presence of police officers to prevent retaliation may allow neighborhood leaders to reassert the community norms that discourage criminal conduct (i.e., the gangbangers stop being the role model for teenagers in the community).

Posted by: tmm | Aug 30, 2018 12:35:15 PM

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