Deterrence and the Adjustment of Sentences During Imprisonment

25 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019

See all articles by A. Mitchell Polinsky

A. Mitchell Polinsky

Stanford Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: July 25, 2019

Abstract

The prison time actually served by a convicted criminal depends to a significant degree on decisions made by the state during the course of imprisonment — on whether to grant parole or other forms of sentence reduction. In this article we study a model of the adjustment of sentences assuming that the state’s objective is the optimal deterrence of crime. In the model, the state can lower or raise the sentence based on deterrence-relevant information that it obtains about a criminal during imprisonment. Our focus on sentence adjustment as a means of promoting deterrence stands in contrast to the usual emphasis in sentence adjustment policy on reducing recidivism.

Keywords: Deterrence, imprisonment, sentence adjustment, sanctions, parole, recidivism

Suggested Citation

Polinsky, A. Mitchell and Shavell, Steven, Deterrence and the Adjustment of Sentences During Imprisonment (July 25, 2019). Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 535. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426603 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426603

A. Mitchell Polinsky (Contact Author)

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Steven Shavell

Harvard Law School ( email )

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