The General versus Specific Deterrence Effects of Expungements: Experimental Evidence

28 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019 Last revised: 3 May 2019

See all articles by Romain Espinosa

Romain Espinosa

CREM - CNRS, Université Rennes 1

Gregory J. DeAngelo

West Virginia University - Department of Economics

Bruno Deffains

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas; Institut Universitaire de France

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Rustam Romaniuc

Université de Montpellier - LAMETA; Università di Torino - IEL

Date Written: April 29, 2019

Abstract

Expungement mechanisms allow first-time offenders to seal their criminal record. Theory predicts that the stigma of a criminal record can hinder the reintegration of criminals for whom legal activities are less lucrative. In theory, expungements priced at the reservation level can facilitate the reintegration of criminals without making first-time crime more attractive. This paper considers a behavioral perspective and offers experimental evidence about the impact of expungements priced either at the theoretically optimal level, above it or below it. To do this, we set up a laboratory experiment where subjects repeatedly face opportunities to commit crime (take money from another subject). In addition to stochastic formal sanctions – imposed by the experimenter – we introduce endogenously determined social sanctions. In our main treatments of interest, subjects who choose the wrongful action have the opportunity to expunge their record prior to the second stage, thus avoiding social sanctions as long as they do not recidivate. Overall, our experiment shows that, from a general deterrence perspective, it is better to implement expungements at very high prices. We offer an explanation for this result based on the idea that the price of expungements may signal the moral reprehensibility of the offense. There is no effect of expungements on specific deterrence.

Keywords: Expungement, Specific Deterrence, General Deterrence, Recidivism, Social Sanctions, Legal Norms

JEL Classification: K14, C91, K42

Suggested Citation

Espinosa, Romain and DeAngelo, Gregory Joseph and Deffains, Bruno and Mungan, Murat C. and Romaniuc, Rustam, The General versus Specific Deterrence Effects of Expungements: Experimental Evidence (April 29, 2019). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 19-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3379701 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3379701

Romain Espinosa

CREM - CNRS, Université Rennes 1 ( email )

7, place Hoche
Rennes, Bretagne 35065
France

Gregory Joseph DeAngelo

West Virginia University - Department of Economics ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Bruno Deffains

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas ( email )

12 place du Pantheon
Paris cedex 05, 75005
France

Institut Universitaire de France ( email )

103, bld Saint-Michel
75005 Paris
France

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Rustam Romaniuc

Université de Montpellier - LAMETA ( email )

Faculté d'Économie
Avenue Raymond Dugrand
Montpellier
France

HOME PAGE: http://www.lameta.univ-montp1.fr/?lang=fr

Università di Torino - IEL ( email )

Via Real Collegio, 30
Moncalieri, Torino 10024
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://iel.carloalberto.org/

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