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Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws

Posted: 10 May 2002  

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law

Abstract

This study explores the impact of "Truth-in-Sentencing" legislation, determinate sentencing laws which require violent offenders to serve at least 85% of their prison sentences, on police, prosecutors and criminals. The standard economic model of crime suggests that TIS laws will deter violent offenders, but also reduce probabilities of arrest and conviction. However, I explain that if states share the TIS legislation's goals, police and prosecutors may instead increase these probabilities. My theoretical model also predicts that the legislation will cause more trials and higher imposed maximum prison sentences. Using a country-level data set, empirical results confirm that TIS laws deter violent offenders, increase the probability of arrest, and increase maximum imposed prison sentences. TIS laws decrease murders by 16%, aggravated assaults by 12%, robberies by 24%, rapes by 12%, and larcenies by 3%. However, offenders substitute into property crimes: burglaries increase by 20% and auto thefts by 15%.

Suggested Citation

Shepherd, Joanna, Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws. Journal of Law & Economics, Vol. 45, No. 2, Part 1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=305702

Joanna Shepherd (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-8957 (Phone)

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