Do Sentencing Guidelines Raise the Cost of Punishment?

27 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2000

See all articles by José Meade

José Meade

CONSAR

Joel Waldfogel

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 1998

Abstract

When judges have discretion over fines and prison terms, sentencing exhibits a tendency" toward efficiency: fines are larger, and prison terms shorter, for offenders with greater ability to" pay. Sentencing guidelines place fairly rigid upper and lower limits on fines and prison terms" and may inhibit the achievement of efficiency in sentencing. Preventing judges from substituting" fines for prison terms may raise the cost of imposing punishment. The objective of this paper is" to measure the efficiency cost of sentencing guidelines using data on federal offenders sentenced" under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. We find evidence that the guidelines raise the cost of" punishment by nearly 5 percent of the total imprisonment cost of federal offenders. Not" surprisingly, constraints on cost minimization raise costs.

Suggested Citation

Meade, José and Waldfogel, Joel, Do Sentencing Guidelines Raise the Cost of Punishment? (January 1998). NBER Working Paper No. w6361. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=226110

José Meade

CONSAR

Camino Santa Teresa #1040 Mexico DF 14210
Mexico

Joel Waldfogel (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Economics ( email )

271 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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