Whom Should We Punish, and How? Rational Incentives and Criminal Justice Reform

Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 17-18

Wythe Lecture, William & Mary Law School, 2017

40 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2017  

Keith N. Hylton

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: February 2017

Abstract

This essay sets out a comprehensive account of rational punishment theory and examines its implications for criminal law reform. Specifically, what offenses should be subjected to criminal punishment, and how should we punish? Should we use prison sentences or fines, and where should we use them? Should some conduct be left to a form of market punishment through private lawsuits? Should fines be used to fund the criminal justice system? The answers I offer address some of the most important public policy issues of the moment, such as mass incarceration and the use of fines to finance law enforcement. The framework of this paper is firmly grounded in rational deterrence policy, and yet points toward reforms that would soften or reduce the scope of criminal punishment.

Keywords: deterrence theory, criminal punishment, criminal incentives, sentencing, economics of criminal law, criminal law reform, public choice, drug legalization, price fixing, criminal fine revenue

Suggested Citation

Hylton, Keith N., Whom Should We Punish, and How? Rational Incentives and Criminal Justice Reform (February 2017). Boston Univ. School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 17-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2982371

Keith N. Hylton (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-8959 (Phone)
617-353-3077 (Fax)

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