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Imprisonment and Crime: Can Both be Reduced?. Daniel S. Nagin Carnegie Mellon University National Association of Sentencing Commissions August 7, 2012. Some Observations About the Four Decade Long Increase in Imprisonment.

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Imprisonment and crime can both be reduced

Imprisonment and Crime: Can Both be Reduced?

Daniel S. Nagin

Carnegie Mellon University

National Association of Sentencing Commissions

August 7, 2012


Some observations about the four decade long increase in imprisonment
Some Observations About the Four Decade Long Increase in Imprisonment

  • Undoubtedly reduced crime but size of reduction is highly uncertain and also irrelevant to policy changes from the status quo

  • Social and economics cost have been large

  • Correction costs have become unsustainable

  • Wide spread recognition across the political spectrum that crime policy needs to be re-thought


Imprisonment and Crime: Can Both Be Reduced? ImprisonmentSteven Durlauf and Daniel Nagin(Criminology and Public Policy, 2011)

  • Yes

  • Requires a shift from severity-based to certainty-based sanction policies

  • Shift in resources from corrections to policing

  • Focus today will be on severity component of the conclusion


When brute forces fails how to have less crime and imprisonment by mark kleiman
When Brute Forces Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Imprisonmentby Mark Kleiman

  • Reaches broadly similar conclusion


Potential crime prevention effects of imprisonment
Potential Crime Prevention Effects of Imprisonment Imprisonment

  • Incapacitation

  • Specific Deterrence—Effect of the experience of imprisonment on reoffending

  • General Deterrence—Effect of the threat of punishment on offending


Why deterrence is important to crime control policy
Why Deterrence Is Important to Crime Control Policy Imprisonment

  • Crime control by incapacitation necessarily increases imprisonment

  • Crime control with deterrence can reduce both crime and imprisonment—if the crime is deterred there is no need for punishment


Key conclusion of recent literature reviews
Key Conclusion of Recent Literature Reviews Imprisonment

  • The marginal deterrent effect of increasing already lengthy prison sentences is modest at best.

  • Incapacitation effects seem to decline with the scale of imprisonment

  • The strategic deployment police has a substantial marginal deterrent effect.

  • No evidence of a specific deterrent effect—all evidence points to either no effect or a crime increasing effect of the experience of imprisonment


Research on sentence length and deterrence
Research on Sentence Length and Deterrence Imprisonment

  • California’s 3-Strikes law at best has had a modest deterrent effect

  • Increased penalties upon reaching age of majority have no apparent deterrent effect

  • Project Exile (Richmond, VA) no apparent deterrent effect

  • Short but certain periods of incarceration do affect the behavior of active offenders


Figure 2 marginal versus absolute deterrent effects
Figure 2: Marginal ImprisonmentVersus Absolute Deterrent Effects

Crime

Rate

C0

C1

S1

S2

Sentence Length


Policy implications for sentencing
Policy Implications for Sentencing Imprisonment

  • Lengthy prison sentences are not effective deterrents

  • Incapacitating aged criminals is not cost effective crime control

    • Recidivism of releases 45 or older is 45% less than their 18 to 24 counterparts

    • 17% of California’s prison population is 50 or older, up from 6% in 1998

    • Nationally, 20% of prison population is 45 or older, double 20 years ago

    • 10% of prison population is serving life terms (4% LWOP)


Bottom line
Bottom line Imprisonment

  • Lengthy sentence can not be justified based on crime control grounds—they must be justified on justice grounds

  • In an era of tight crime control budgets, policing (and parole and probation services) not prisons should receive a larger share of a smaller pie.

  • Need to scale back on sentence length, particularly of the mandatory minimum and lengthy variety


Recent essays
Recent Essays Imprisonment

  • Imprisonment and Crime: Can Both Be Reduced?

  • Imprisonment and Reoffending

  • Deterrence: A Review of the Evidence by a Criminologist for Economists

  • Deterrence in the 21st Century: A Review of the Evidence

  • My email address: [email protected]



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