On Probation: An Experimental Analysis

37 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2015

See all articles by Christoph Engel

Christoph Engel

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics, Students; Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

Heike Hennig‐Schmidt

University of Bonn - Laboratory for Experimental Economics

Bernd Irlenbusch

University of Cologne

Sebastian Kube

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn

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Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

Does probation pay a double dividend? Society saves the cost of incarceration, and convicts preserve their liberty. But does probation also reduce the risk of recidivism? In a meta‐study we show that the field evidence is inconclusive. Moreover, it struggles with an identification problem: those put on probation are less likely to recidivate in the first place. We therefore complement the existing field evidence with a novel lab experiment that isolates the definitional feature of probation: the first sanction is conditional on being sanctioned again during the probation period. We find that probationers are more likely to recidivate (i.e., to reduce their contributions to a joint project), that punishment cost is higher, efficiency lower, and inequity higher. While experimental subjects are on probation, they increase their contributions to a joint project. However, once the probation period expires, they reduce their contributions. While in the aggregate these two effects almost cancel out, critically, those not punished themselves trust the institution less if punishment does not become immediately effective.

Suggested Citation

Engel, Christoph and Henning-Schmidt, Heike and Irlenbusch, Bernd and Kube, Sebastian, On Probation: An Experimental Analysis (June 2015). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 12, Issue 2, pp. 252-288, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2600723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jels.12072

Christoph Engel (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

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University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics

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Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics, Students ( email )

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Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

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Heike Henning-Schmidt

University of Bonn - Laboratory for Experimental Economics ( email )

Adenauerallee 24-42
Bonn, 53113
Germany

Bernd Irlenbusch

University of Cologne ( email )

Albertus-Magnus-Platz
Cologne, 50923
Germany

Sebastian Kube

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

University of Bonn

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Adenauerallee 24-42
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

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