Wrongful Convictions, Deterrence, and Stigma Dilution

16 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2017 Last revised: 9 Mar 2018

See all articles by Murat C. Mungan

Murat C. Mungan

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2017


There is no consensus in the economics of law enforcement literature regarding the likely effects of wrongful convictions on deterrence. While many assert that wrongful convictions and wrongful acquittals are likely to cause similar reductions in deterrence, others, most notably Lando (2006), have claimed that certain types of wrongful convictions are unlikely to affect deterrence. However, the stigmatizing effects of convictions are not taken into account in the formulation of either view. Frequent wrongful convictions naturally make criminal records less meaningful, because they reduce the proportion of truly guilty individuals among the convicted population. This stigma dilution effect, along with similar effects regarding the probability of stigmatization, are formalized via a model wherein criminal records act as noisy signals of offenders' characteristics. The analysis reveals that when criminal records cause stigmatization, wrongful convictions reduce deterrence, even if they are caused by adjudication mistakes which were previously shown to have no effect on deterrence. This suggests that pro-defendant biases in various criminal procedures can potentially be explained through interactions between stigmatization and wrongful convictions.

Keywords: Stigma, wrongful convictions, type-1 error, mistakes of act, mistakes of identity, deterrence

Suggested Citation

Mungan, Murat C., Wrongful Convictions, Deterrence, and Stigma Dilution (September 10, 2017). Supreme Court Economic Review, Forthcoming, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 17-43, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3067050 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3067050

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

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