Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Law Enforcement Using Imprisonment

14 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2003  

A. Mitchell Polinsky

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


This essay is a new chapter in An Introduction to Law and Economics (Third Edition, forthcoming 2003). It discusses how the state should determine the length of a jail term to impose on an individual if he has committed a crime and how much to spend on trying to catch criminals. The analysis focuses on the implications of the cost of detection and the cost of operating and maintaining jails. The optimal probability and magnitude of the sentence are shown to depend on how rapidly the disutility from time in jail rises with the length of the jail sentence.

Keywords: law enforcement, imprisonment, sanctions, crime, jail term

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Polinsky, A. Mitchell, Law Enforcement Using Imprisonment. AN INTRODUCTION TO LAW AND ECONOMICS, Third Edition, 2003 . Available at SSRN: or

A. Mitchell Polinsky (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-0886 (Phone)
650-723-3557 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views