Prison as a School of Crime: Evidence from Cell-Level Interactions

23 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2012

Date Written: December 2011


This paper investigates how interactions in prison influence post-release behavior, establishing at a fine granularity level how prison might act as a "school of crime". Using a unique French administrative dataset of all prisoners incarcerated since January, 2008, which includes cell allocation, we study interactions in own and cellmates' post-release behavior, and in particular in type of crime committed upon release, depending on self and cellmates' motive of incarceration. In French short-term prisons (which we focus on), cellmates typically spend a large portion of a day in their cells, and normal cell sizes are quite small (generally less than 6 inmates at a time), allowing us define extensively who one interacts with during the length of incarceration. By using number of days of overlap as a measure of intensity of interaction, we find evidence of peer effects for skill-intensive offenses, in case of recidivism.

Suggested Citation

Ouss, Aurelie, Prison as a School of Crime: Evidence from Cell-Level Interactions (December 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Aurelie Ouss (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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