Over-Incarceration and Disenfranchisement

21 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2017

See all articles by Murat C. Mungan

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 31, 2017


This article presents a model wherein law enforcers propose sentences to maximize their likelihood of reelection, and shows that elections typically generate over-incarceration, i.e., longer than optimal sentences. It then studies the effects of disenfranchisement laws, which 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, and thereby causes the political process to push the sentences for criminal offenses upwards. Therefore, 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; representative voter theorem

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

Suggested Citation

Mungan, Murat C., Over-Incarceration and Disenfranchisement (March 31, 2017). Public Choice, Forthcoming; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 16-43. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2946457

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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