A Simple Model of Optimal Deterrence and Incapacitation

27 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2014 Last revised: 18 Dec 2014

See all articles by Steven Shavell

Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: December 2014

Abstract

The deterrence of crime and its reduction through incapacitation are studied in a simple multiperiod model of crime and law enforcement. Optimal imprisonment sanctions and the optimal probability of sanctions are determined. A point of emphasis is that the incapacitation of individuals is often socially desirable even when they are potentially deterrable. The reason is that successful deterrence may require a relatively high probability of sanctions and thus a relatively high enforcement expense. In contrast, incapacitation may yield benefits no matter how low the probability of sanctions is—implying that incapacitation may be superior to deterrence.

Suggested Citation

Shavell, Steven, A Simple Model of Optimal Deterrence and Incapacitation (December 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20747. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2538333

Steven Shavell (Contact Author)

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