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Prison Conditions and Recidivism

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR

Roberto Galbiati

CNRS (umr EconomiX) Paris; Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University

IZA Working Paper No. 3395

We use a unique data set on post-release behavior of former Italian inmates to estimate the effect of prison conditions on recidivism. By combining different sources of data we exploit variation in prison conditions measured by: 1) the extent of overcrowding at the prison level, 2) the number of deaths in the facility of detention during an inmate's stay and 3) the distance of the prison from the chief town of the province where the prison is located. By considering inmates who served their sentence in a jurisdiction different from the hometown in which they live after release, we can include province of residence fixed effects and account for the main source of unobserved heterogeneity correlated to prison conditions. We find that a harsher prison treatment does not reduce former inmates' criminal activity. The extent of overcrowding and the number of deaths do not decrease the probability to be re-arrested. Instead, we find evidence that the degree of isolation measured by distance from the prison of detention to the chief town of the province where the prison is located increases recidivism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: crime, prison, deterrence

JEL Classification: K42, J18

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Date posted: May 23, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Vertova, Pietro, Prison Conditions and Recidivism. , Vol. , pp. -, . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1136200 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0042-7092.2007.00700.x

Contact Information

Francesco Drago (Contact Author)
University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )
Piazza Pugliatti 1
Roberto Galbiati
CNRS (umr EconomiX) Paris ( email )
200 Avenue de la République
Nanterre cedex, Nanterre Cedex 92000
Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )
Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136
Pietro Vertova
Bocconi University ( email )
Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
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