Incarceration and Crime: Evidence from California's Public Safety Realignment Reform

57 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2013

See all articles by Magnus Lofstrom

Magnus Lofstrom

Public Policy Institute of California; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Steven Raphael

University of California, Berkeley - The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy

Abstract

We evaluate the effect of perhaps the largest exogenous decline in a state's incarceration rate in U.S. history on local crime rates. We assess the effects of a recent reform in California that caused a sharp and permanent reduction in the state's incarceration rate. We exploit the large variation across California counties in the effect of this reform on county-specific prison incarceration rates.We find very little evidence of an effect of the large reduction in incarceration rates on violent crime and evidence of modest effects on property crime, auto theft in particular. These effects are considerably smaller than existing estimates in the literature based on panel data for periods of time when the U.S. incarceration rate was considerably lower. We corroborate theses cross-county results with a synthetic-cohort analysis of state crime rates in California. This state-wide analysis confirms our findings from the county-level analysis. In conjunction with existing published research, the results from this study support the hypothesis of a crime-prison effect that diminishes with the scale of incarceration.

Keywords: crime, incapacitation, incarceration, prison, realignment, reform

JEL Classification: K40, K42, H11

Suggested Citation

Lofstrom, Magnus and Raphael, Steven, Incarceration and Crime: Evidence from California's Public Safety Realignment Reform. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7838. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2372547

Magnus Lofstrom (Contact Author)

Public Policy Institute of California ( email )

500 Washington Street
Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
+49 228 3894 303 (Phone)
+49 228 3894 210 (Fax)

Steven Raphael

University of California, Berkeley - The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy ( email )

2607 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320

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