The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

213. A. M. Polinsky and S. Shavell, On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence, 9/97; subsequently published in the Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, January 1999, 1-16.

Abstract: This article studies the implications for the theory of deterrence of (a) the manner in which individuals' disutility from imprisonment varies with the length of the imprisonment term; and (b) discounting of the future disutility and future public costs of imprisonment. Two questions are addressed: Is deterrence enhanced more by increasing the length of imprisonment terms or instead by raising the likelihood of imposing imprisonment? What is the optimal combination of the severity and probability of imprisonment sanctions?

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