Conviction, Incarceration, and Policy Effects in the Criminal Justice System

79 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2024

See all articles by Vishal Kamat

Vishal Kamat

Queen Mary University of London

Samuel Norris

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Vancouver School of Economics

Matthew Pecenco

Brown University

Date Written: March 27, 2024

Abstract

The criminal justice system affects millions of Americans through criminal convictions and incarceration. In this paper, we introduce a new method for credibly estimating the effects of both conviction and incarceration using randomly assigned judges as instruments for treatment. Misdemeanor convictions, especially for defendants with a shorter criminal record, cause an increase in the number of new offenses committed over the following five years. Incarceration on more serious felony charges, in contrast, reduces recidivism during the period of incapacitation, but has no effect after release. Our method allows the researcher to isolate specific treatment effects of interest as well as estimate the effect of broader policies; we find that courts could reduce crime by dismissing marginal charges against defendants accused of misdemeanors, with larger reductions among first-time defendants and those facing more serious charges.

Keywords: conviction, incarceration, examiner designs, criminal record

Suggested Citation

Kamat, Vishal and Norris, Samuel and Pecenco, Matthew, Conviction, Incarceration, and Policy Effects in the Criminal Justice System (March 27, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4777635 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4777635

Vishal Kamat

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Samuel Norris (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Vancouver School of Economics ( email )

6000 Iona Dr
Vancouver, BC V6T 1L4
Canada

Matthew Pecenco

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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