Do Private Prisons Affect Criminal Sentencing?
52 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2019 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 2019
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.
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