The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

1011. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, Deterrence and the Adjustment of Sentences During Imprisonment; NBER Working Paper No. 26083, 04/2021; forthcoming in American Law and Economics Review.

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—notably, on whether to grant parole. 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 a criminal’s initial sentence on the basis of deterrence-relevant information obtained 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 avoiding recidivism.

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