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A Behavioral Justification for Escalating Punishment Schemes

20 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2012 Last revised: 3 Dec 2015

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: June 8, 2015

Abstract

The standard two-period law enforcement model is considered in a setting where individuals rarely lose self-control or commit crime without first comparing expected costs and benefits. Where escalating punishment schemes are present, there is an inherent value in keeping a clean criminal record; a person with a record may unintentionally become a repeat offender if he fails to exert self-control, and be punished more severely. If the punishment for repeat offenders is sufficiently high, one may rationally forgo the opportunity of committing a profitable crime today to avoid being sanctioned as a repeat offender in the future. Therefore, partial deterrence can be achieved at a very low cost through the use of escalating penalties, providing a behavioral justification for punishing repeat offenders more severely.

Keywords: Lapse, weak will, repeat offenders, law enforcement, deterrence, escalating penalties

JEL Classification: D03, K00, K10, K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Mungan, Murat C., A Behavioral Justification for Escalating Punishment Schemes (June 8, 2015). 37 International Review of Law and Economics 189 (2014); FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 602; FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2130847 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2130847

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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