Prison Conditions and Recidivism

32 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2009

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: August 3, 2009


This paper examines the impact of prison conditions on future criminal behaviour. The analysis is based on a unique dataset on the post-release behaviour of 25,000 Italian former prison inmates. We use an exogenous variation in prison assignment as a means of identifying the effects of prison overcrowding, deaths in prison, and degree of isolation on the probability of re-offending. We find do not find compelling evidence of deterrent effects of prison severity. The measures of prison severity do not affect negatively the probability of recidivism. Instead, all point estimates suggest that harsh prison conditions increase post-release criminal activity, though they are not always precisely estimated.

Keywords: Crime, Prison, Deterrence

JEL Classification: K42, J18

Suggested Citation

Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Vertova, Pietro, Prison Conditions and Recidivism (August 3, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Francesco Drago (Contact Author)

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )

Piazza Pugliatti 1

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007

Pietro Vertova

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136

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