Justifying Imprisonment: On the Optimality of Excessively Costly Punishment
33 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2001
Date Written: August 20, 2001
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: Suggested Citation