Do Private Prisons Affect Criminal Sentencing?

52 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2019 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021

See all articles by Christian Dippel

Christian Dippel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Michael Poyker

University of Nottingham, School of Economics

Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

Using a newly constructed complete monthly panel of private and public state prisons, we ask whether private prisons impact judges’ sentencing decisions in their state. We employ two identification strategies, a difference-in-difference strategy comparing court-pairs that straddle state-borders, and an event study. We find that the opening of private prisons has a large effect on sentence lengths shortly after opening but this effect dissipates once the prison is at capacity. Public prison openings have no such effects, suggesting that private prisons have an impact on criminal sentencing that public ones do not.

Suggested Citation

Dippel, Christian and Poyker, Mikhail, Do Private Prisons Affect Criminal Sentencing? (March 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25715, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3368005

Christian Dippel (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

Mikhail Poyker

University of Nottingham, School of Economics ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

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