Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation

Stanford Law School, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 157

30 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 1999

See all articles by Daniel P. Kessler

Daniel P. Kessler

Stanford Graduate School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1998

Abstract

Differentiating empirically between deterrence and incapacitation is difficult since both are a function of expected punishment. In this paper we demonstrate that the introduction of sentence enhancements (i.e., increased punishments that are added on to prison sentences that would have been served anyway) provides a direct means of measuring deterrence. Because the criminal would have been sentenced to prison anyway, there is no additional incapacitation effect from the sentence enhancement in the short-run. Therefore, any immediate decrease in crime must be due to deterrence. We test the model using California's Proposition 8, which imposed sentence enhancements for a selected group of crimes. Using a differences-in-differences approach (comparing changes in eligible crimes relative to non-eligible crimes in California and the rest of the nation), Proposition 8 appears to reduce eligible crimes by four percent in the year following its passage and eight percent three years after passage. These immediate effects are consistent with deterrence. The impact of the law continues to increase five to seven years after its passage, suggesting that incapacitation may be important as well.

Suggested Citation

Kessler, Daniel Philip and Levitt, Steven D., Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation (March 1998). Stanford Law School, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 157. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=168613 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.168613

Daniel Philip Kessler (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-4492 (Phone)
650-725-6152 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-1862 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

American Bar Foundation

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
233
Abstract Views
2,214
rank
106,346
PlumX Metrics