Justifying Imprisonment: On the Optimality of Excessively Costly Punishment

33 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2001

See all articles by Abraham L. Wickelgren

Abraham L. Wickelgren

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics

Date Written: August 20, 2001

Abstract

Existing theories of criminal punishment cannot explain the widespread use of imprisonment rather than corporal punishment, prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, or the existence of costly amenities inside prisons. In a recent article, David Friedman hypothesized that, because convicts lack political influence, it is desirable to make punishment more costly than necessary to prevent policy makers from excessively punishing convicts. By explicitly modeling this hypothesis and using simulations to solve the model, this paper estimates exactly how little political influence convicts must have to make costly punishment optimal. The simulations also make predictions about how the cost of punishment should vary with severity of the offense, predictions that are consistent with existing punishment practices.

Keywords: Crime, Punishment, Imprisonment, Law and Economics

JEL Classification: K10, K14, D70, D72

Suggested Citation

Wickelgren, Abraham L., Justifying Imprisonment: On the Optimality of Excessively Costly Punishment (August 20, 2001). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285571 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.285571

Abraham L. Wickelgren (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics

Austin, TX 78712
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
131
Abstract Views
1,204
rank
228,647
PlumX Metrics