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American Economic Journal: Economic Policy: Vol. 6 No. 1 (February 2014)

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The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons

Article Citation

Barbarino, Alessandro, and Giovanni Mastrobuoni. 2014. "The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 6(1): 1-37.

DOI: 10.1257/pol.6.1.1

Abstract

We estimate the "incapacitation effect" on crime using variation in Italian prison population driven by eight collective pardons passed between 1962 and 1990. The prison releases are sudden (within one day), very large (up to 35 percent of the entire prison population), and happen nationwide. Exploiting this quasi-natural experiment we break the simultaneity of crime and prisoners and, in addition, use the national character of the pardons to separately identify incapacitation from changes in deterrence. The elasticity of total crime with respect to incapacitation is between -17 and -30 percent. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that Italy's prison population is below its optimal level.

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Online Appendix (115.18 KB) | Download Data Set (693.74 KB) | Author Disclosure Statement(s) (45.95 KB)

Authors

Barbarino, Alessandro (Federal Reserve Board)
Mastrobuoni, Giovanni (U Essex and Collegio Carlo Alberto)

JEL Classifications

K42: Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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