The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

32 Pages Posted: 29 May 2008

See all articles by Francesco Drago

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2007

Abstract

In this paper we test for the theory of deterrence. We exploit the natural experiment provided by the Collective Clemency Bill passed by the Italian Parliament in July 2006. As a consequence of the provisions of the bill, expected punishment to former inmates recommitting a crime can be considered as good as randomly assigned. Based on a unique data set on post-release behaviour of former inmates, we find that an additional month in expected sentence reduces the propensity to recommit a crime by 1.24 percent: this corroborates the general deterrence hypothesis. However, this effect depends on the time previously served in prison: the behavioural response to an additional month of expected sentence decreases with the length of the prison spell. This second result can be hardly reconciled with the specific deterrence hypothesis according to which a stronger past experience of punishment should increase the sensitivity to future expected sanctions.

Keywords: crime, deterrence, natural experiment, recidivism

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Vertova, Pietro, The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (July 2007). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6401, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1138514

Francesco Drago (Contact Author)

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )

Piazza Pugliatti 1
Messina
Italy

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

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