A Behavioral Justification for Escalating Punishment Schemes
Murat C. Mungan
George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty
June 8, 2015
37 International Review of Law and Economics 189 (2014)
FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 602
FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper
The standard two-period law enforcement model is considered in a setting where individuals rarely lose self-control or commit crime without first comparing expected costs and benefits. Where escalating punishment schemes are present, there is an inherent value in keeping a clean criminal record; a person with a record may unintentionally become a repeat offender if he fails to exert self-control, and be punished more severely. If the punishment for repeat offenders is sufficiently high, one may rationally forgo the opportunity of committing a profitable crime today to avoid being sanctioned as a repeat offender in the future. Therefore, partial deterrence can be achieved at a very low cost through the use of escalating penalties, providing a behavioral justification for punishing repeat offenders more severely.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Lapse, weak will, repeat offenders, law enforcement, deterrence, escalating penalties
JEL Classification: D03, K00, K10, K14, K40, K42
Date posted: August 17, 2012 ; Last revised: December 3, 2015
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