Over-Incarceration and Disenfranchisement with Population Growth

14 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016 Last revised: 24 Mar 2017

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

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Date Written: March 23, 2017

Abstract

Disenfranchisement laws in many states prohibit convicted felons from voting. The removal of ex-convicts from the pool of eligible voters reduces the pressure politicians may otherwise face to protect the interests of this group. In particular, disenfranchisement laws may cause the political process to push the sentences for criminal offenses upwards. In this article, I construct a simple model with elected law enforcers who propose sentences to maximize their likelihood of election. I show, with the help of the median voter theorem, that even without disenfranchisement, elections typically generate over-incarceration, i.e. longer than optimal sentences. Disenfranchisement further widens the gap between the optimal sentence and the equilibrium sentence, and thereby exacerbates the problem of over-incarceration. Moreover, this result is valid even when voter turnout is negatively correlated with people's criminal tendencies, i.e. when criminals vote less frequently than non-criminals.

Keywords: disenfranchisement, over-incarceration, mass incarceration, imprisonment, crime and deterrence, median voter theorem

JEL Classification: D70, D72, K00, K14, K42, P48

Suggested Citation

Mungan, Murat C., Over-Incarceration and Disenfranchisement with Population Growth (March 23, 2017). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 16-43. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2863035 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2863035

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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