Crime Versus Justice: Is There a Tradeoff?

Posted: 15 Oct 2001

See all articles by Amy Farmer

Amy Farmer

University of Arkansas - Department of Economics

Dek Terrell

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics

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Abstract

When society is divided into two groups with different actual or perceived crime rates, maintaining a low crime rate, minimizing the total number of innocent individuals convicted of a crime and keeping the probability of wrongly convicting an innocent individual equal across groups are incompatible social goals. The model presented here fully develops these tradeoffs. An empirical application of the model finds that these trade-offs may be substantial. Specifically, we estimate that innocent black Americans would be roughly eight times more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder than innocent white Americans if society placed no value on equality when it comes to convictions. However, we estimate that eliminating inequality entirely could cost up to 1,900 lives annually due to a rise in the murder rate. Estimates also reveal similar findings for gender inequality. In highlighting this serious social dilemma, this paper suggests the need to be aware of costs of policies designed to lower crimes.

JEL Classification: J15, K4

Suggested Citation

Farmer, Amy and Terrell, Milton Dek, Crime Versus Justice: Is There a Tradeoff?. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285175

Amy Farmer (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Economics ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States
501-575-6093 (Phone)
501-575-3241 (Fax)

Milton Dek Terrell

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of economics
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-6308
United States

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