Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Discontinuity-Based Approach

Posted: 16 Jun 2008

See all articles by M. Keith Chen

M. Keith Chen

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Jesse M. Shapiro

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: Spring 2007

Abstract

We estimate the causal effect of prison conditions on recidivism rates by exploiting a discontinuity in the assignment of federal prisoners to security levels. Inmates housed in higher security levels are no less likely to recidivate than those housed in minimum security; if anything, our estimates suggest that harsher prison conditions lead to more post-release crime. Though small sample sizes limit the precision of our estimates, we argue that our findings may have important implications for prison policy, and that our methodology is likely to be applicable beyond the particular context we study.

Keywords: K42, Z13, J62

Suggested Citation

Chen, Keith and Shapiro, Jesse M., Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Discontinuity-Based Approach (Spring 2007). American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 9, Issue 1, pp. 1-29, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1145988 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aler/ahm006

Keith Chen (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/index.html

Jesse M. Shapiro

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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