Repeat Offenders and the Theory of Deterrence

John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Stanford Law School, Working Paper No. 134

Posted: 16 Dec 1996

See all articles by A. Mitchell Polinsky

A. Mitchell Polinsky

Stanford Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 1996

Abstract

This article uses a two-period version of the standard economic model of deterrence to study whether sanctions should depend on an individual's record of prior convictions -- his offense history. The principal contribution of the article is to demonstrate that it may be optimal to treat repeat offenders disadvantageously because such a policy serves to enhance deterrence: When an individual contemplates committing an offense in the first period, he will realize that if he is caught, not only will he bear an immediate sanction, but also -- because he will have a record -- any sanction that he bears in the second period will be higher than it would be otherwise.

JEL Classification: K42, K14

Suggested Citation

Polinsky, A. Mitchell and Shavell, Steven, Repeat Offenders and the Theory of Deterrence (July 1996). John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Stanford Law School, Working Paper No. 134. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=10250

A. Mitchell Polinsky (Contact Author)

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Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School ( email )

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617-496-2256 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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