A Behavioral Justification for Escalating Punishment Schemes
20 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2012 Last revised: 3 Dec 2015
Date Written: June 8, 2015
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: Suggested Citation