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Prison and Crime Control: Evidence of Diminishing Returns to Scale Steven Raphael Goldman School of Public Policy University of California, Berkeley.

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Presentation on theme: "Prison and Crime Control: Evidence of Diminishing Returns to Scale Steven Raphael Goldman School of Public Policy University of California, Berkeley."— Presentation transcript:

1 Prison and Crime Control: Evidence of Diminishing Returns to Scale Steven Raphael Goldman School of Public Policy University of California, Berkeley

2 The 2006 Italian Collective Clemency Bill Passed on July 1, 2006 Reduced sentences of inmates convicted of certain felony offenses prior to May 2, 2006 by three years. Led to the immediate release of one-third of the prison population on August 1, Ineligible inmates include those convicted of offenses involving organized crime, sexual assault, terrorism, kidnapping, and exploiting a prostitute. No post-released supervision. Pardoned inmates who re-offend have their residual sentence tagged on to any new sentence for offenses occurring within five years.

3 Scatter plot of monthly incarceration rates against month measured relative to August 2006

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5 Estimated Annual Crime Effects per Prison Year Served

6 Summary of Prison Overcrowding Litigation in California 1990: Coleman v. Brown 2001: Plata V. Brown 2006: Federal three-judge court established with authority over prison growth 2009: Three-judge court order state to immediately offer plan to reduce prison population to percent of capacity. State appeals to the Supreme Court. 2011: Supreme Court upholds the population limit order by the three-judge panel.

7 Provisions of Assembly Bill 109 (California Realignment) Non-sexual, non-violent, non-serious (triple nons) felons will serve terms in county jail rather than state prison. No post- release supervision for these inmates. Triple nons currently serving time are monitored post-release under the Post Release Community Supervision program administered by counties. Technical violation will result in short jail terms but not returns to state prison. Nearly all parole revocations are now served in county jail with a maximum of 180 days. Enables greater use of non-custodial alternatives for both pre- trial and convicted jail inmates (primarily electronic monitoring).

8 Total Weekly Admissions to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from the Beginning of October 2010 through the End of May 2013

9 Total CDCR Weekly Population Count, January 2011 through May 2013

10 Scatter Plot of the Annual Pre-Post Realignment Changes in Monthly Crime Rates Against the Corresponding Change in the County Incarceration Rate

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12 Violent Crime Rate Trends in California and Synthetic California, with Synthetic Comparison Group and Weighted Identified by Matching on Violent Crime Rates for Each Year Between 2000 and 2010

13 Property Crime Rate Trends in California and Synthetic California, with Synthetic Comparison Group and Weighted Identified by Matching on Violent Crime Rates for Each Year Between 2000 and 2010

14 Explaining the differences Institution and cultural factors Diminishing returns to scale Italy’s pre-pardon incarceration rate stood at 103 per 100,000 California’s pre-pardon incarceration rate was 425 for prisoners alone. Adding the jail population of 72,000 increases the point-in-time incarceration rate to roughly 615 per 100,000 (roughly six times the incarceration rate of Italy)

15 Sources of diminishing returns to scale Criminogenic heterogeneity among those who criminally offend Expansion of the use of prison along the extensive margin Net less serious offenders for less serious offenses Expansion of the use of prison along the intensive margin More likely to incarcerate offenders beyond the age of desistance

16 Proportion of Inmates Serving an Entire Review Period in a California State Prison in 2008 That Acquire a Rules Violation Report between Classification Hearings

17 The Relationship between the Likelihood of Acquiring a Rules Violation and Age within California State Prisons, 2008

18 Diminishing Returns Sets in at Surprisingly Low Incarceration Levels Cross-province differences in the effects of the Italian pardon The effects of a targeted and highly selective sentence enhancement in the Netherlands. Effects of exogenous increase in jail incarceration in Israel Estimates of the average effect of a prison year served on crime rates in the United States at different points in time

19 Estimates of the Annual Effects of a Pardoned Inmate on Province Level Crime Totals

20 Estimated Impact of a Pardoned Inmate on Local Crime by Key Percentiles of the Per-Pardon Incarceration Rate

21 Analysis of Habitual Offender Sentence Enhancement in Holland 2001 (Study by Ben Vollard in the Economic Journal, 2012) The Dutch pass a sentence enhancement in 2001 targeted at offenders with 10 or more prior felony offenses. Increases sentence for theft from two months to two years. Limited initially to 10 largest cities, but later (2004) expanded nationwide. Ability to apply the sentence limited through a centralized rationing process of available prison space. Resulted in cross-area differences in the extent to which localities were able to apply the sentence enhancement to their population of usual suspects. Based on police records, Vollard estimates that there were roughly three to four thousands offenders whose criminal history made them eligible for the sentence enhancement. Dutch incarceration rate at the time low by U.S. standards (124 per 100,000)

22 Relationship between recorded offenses in years preceding the policy change among those receiving the sentence enhancement and the proportion of eligible offenders sentenced under the new law

23 Vollard results Large average annual incapacitation effects on the order of 50 to 60 offenses prevented per year served. Moving from the 25 th to the 75 th percentile of the incapacitation ratio results in a 25 percent reduction in the incapacitation effect.

24 Realignment in Israel (Ater, Givati, and Rigbi 2013) Responsibility for housing arrestees transferred from police department to the Israeli Prison Authority. Before reform arrestees housed at police stations or local jails, managed by police stations and paid for out of the police budget After reform, responsibility and budget transferred to state agency. Israeli incarceration rate inclusive of pre-trial population (about 35 percent of total) stood at 225 per 100,000 in 2013

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26 Individuals arrested after the reform were 20 percentage points less likely to be charged. Authors interpret this as a reduction in the probable-cause threshold implemented by police officers once responsibilities were realigned Individuals arrested after the reform faced maximum sentences that were on average 60 percent lower than individuals arrested before the reform Increase in arrests driven almost entirely by increased arrests for public order and property crime rather than violent crime. Increase in arrests and incarcerated arrestees reduced property and public order crime but had no impact on violent crime (elasticity of roughly 0.4).

27 Average U.S. State Incarceration Rates for Three Sub-Periods Analyzed

28 Table 7.3 Estimates of the Effect of a One-Person Increase in the Prison Incarceration Rate on Violent Crime for Different Time Periods Specification No controlsControlling for state demographics Controlling for state demographics and year effects Violent Crime 1977 through through through (1.079) c (0.388) (0.304) (1.044) b (0.288) (0.256) (0.724) c (0.177) (0.309) Murder 1977 through through through (0.037) (0.005) c (0.007) (0.036) (0.004) a (0.007) (0.037) (0.004) b (0.008) Rape 1977 through through through (0.059) a (0.015) (0.021) (0.053) a (0.012) (0.019) (0.038) a (0.010) c (0.026) Robbery 1977 through through through (0.784) b (0.166) (0.149) (0.758) b (0.124) (0.129) (0.545) b (0.087) (0.145) Assault 1977 through through through (0.337) (0.235) (0.171) (0.288) (0.197) (0.147) (0.271) (0.155) (0.194)

29 Table 7.4 Estimates of the Effect of a One-Person Increase in the Prison Incarceration Rate on Property Crime for Different Time Periods Specification No controlsControlling for state demographics Controlling for state demographics and year effects Property Crime 1977 through through through (8.087) b (0.943) (1.696) (7.968) b (0.680) (1.414) (4.777) c (0.654) c (1.527) Burglary 1977 through through through (3.606) b (0.195) (0.419) (3.572) b (0.284) (0.387) (2.076) b (0.253) c (0.462) Larceny 1977 through through through (4.182) b (0.629) (0.994) c (4.161) b (0.424) (0.822) (2.437) (0.401) (0.925) Motor Vehicle Theft 1977 through through through (0.815) (0.318) (0.489) (0.747) (0.262) (0.428) c (0.926) (0.202) (0.444)

30 Further evidence from the U.S. (Liedke, Piehl and Useem 2006) Assess how the crime-prison elasticity varies with the scale of incarceration using state-level panel data. Allowing for higher-order polynomial regressions and spline functions with incarceration level notches Find substantial prison-crime effects at low incarceration rates Effects decline rapidly with incarceration growth Somewhere between an incarceration rate of 325 and 425 per 100,000, elasticity falls to zero or turns slightly positive.

31 Concluding thoughts Much more room for selective incapacitation, especially in the United States where the incarceration rate is so high. While a sizable share of U.S. prison growth is attributable to changes in drug sentencing policy (roughly one-fifth) the lion’s share in state prisons is attributable to longer sentences for violent offenders (roughly one half of growth). Many violent offenders are often thought to be low-risk of recidivism. Creates tension between utilitarian and just-desert objectives of corrections. We are likely way beyond the point where benefits in terms of crime control outweigh the budgetary and social costs of current incarceration levels.

32 Studies discussed in this presentation Buonanno, Paolo and Steven Raphael (2013), “Incarceration and Incapacitation: Evidence from the 2006 Italian Collective Pardon,” American Economic Review, 103(6): Itai, Ater; Givati, Yehonatan; and Oren Rigbi (2013), “Organizational Structure, Police Activity, and Crime,” Available at SSRN: or Liedke, Raymond; Piehl, Anne Morrison and Bert Useem (2006), “The Crime Control Effect of Incarceration: Does Scale Matter?” Criminology and Public Policy, 5: Lofstrom, Magnus and Steven Raphael (2013), Public Safety Realignment and Crime Rates in California, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA. Raphael, Steven and Michael Stoll, Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY (2013). Vollard, Ben (2013), “Preventing Crime Through Selective Incapacitation,” The Economic Journal, 123 (567):


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