Preventing Crime Through Selective Incapacitation

TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2011-001

CentER Discussion Paper No. 2010-141

52 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2011 Last revised: 27 Jan 2011

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 12, 2011


Making the length of a prison sentence conditional on an individual’s offense history is shown to be a powerful way of preventing crime. Under a law adopted in the Netherlands in 2001, prolific offenders could be sentenced to a prison term that was some ten times longer than usual. We exploit quasi-experimental variation in the moment of introduction and the frequency of application across 12 urban areas to identify the effect. We find the sentence enhancements to have dramatically reduced theft rates. The size of the crime-reducing effect is found to be subject to sharply diminishing returns.

Keywords: prolific offenders, incarceration, selective incapacitation, three strikes laws

JEL Classification: K42, K14

Suggested Citation

Vollaard, Ben, Preventing Crime Through Selective Incapacitation (January 12, 2011). TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2011-001, CentER Discussion Paper No. 2010-141, Available at SSRN: or

Ben Vollaard (Contact Author)

CentER, Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE

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