Article by Jay D. Blitzman
The George Mason University School of Law Judicial Education Program presented an excellent program on the economics of crime, formally titled “Judicial Symposium on Using the Law and Economics to Reform the System of Criminal Justice: Theory, Empirical Evidence and Some Applications. There was lots of thought provoking material presented including that incarceration and other sanctions can be viewed much as in torts law, as costs that are part of a cost-benefit analysis. The upshot is that if some of our criminal justice dollars were spent elsewhere, we would have less crime and fewer victims. There was lots of great information conveyed in this conference with the entire program on video on the web.
In particular see the presentations by Jonathan Klick (University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Rand Corporation) on what I’m calling cost-benefit analysis of crime, Paul Larkin (Heritage Foundation) on over-criminalization, and Alexes Harris (University of Washington), on fees on individuals in the criminal justice system. Here is the entire conference on video and here is the entire package of pre-conference materials. Here are some selected notes on the program. This is one of the top programs I’ve seen recently on this subject so I recommend watching the videos. Good work by the George Mason University School of Law, Law and Economics Center and Judicial Education Program and their partners.
This article by Cecilia Klingele of the University of Wisconsin Law School in the Notre Dame Law Review cautions against over-reliance on metrics and cost-benefit analyses within the criminal justice system, as she writes:
“Talk of data and efficiencies and actuarial tools is cool and detached, and can rise
above some of the heated partisan rancor that has so long defined and complicated
conversations about criminal justice. The problem is that depersonalization
is just that. It divorces even those implementing reform from
confronting the underlying reason why reform is necessary: not because
prison is costly, but because prisons are filled with too many people locked in
cages for years at a time, not infrequently for crimes that only a few short
decades ago would have gone unpunished or drawn a substantially less severe
sentence. That is an uncomfortable truth. By talking about money and data,
many reformers hope to avoid these hard conversations and jump straight to
solving the perceived problems of an overly harsh and insufficiently rehabilitative
criminal justice system. But there are no shortcuts to culture change.”
Click here for the full article.
This small to medium-sized 2015 PDF-book from the Brennan Center at New York University subjects the possible causes of the large crime decline to a multi-variable regression analysis. It suggests that increases in incarceration will not reduce crime, and that the historical crime decline of the last 30 years is due to many factors: What Caused the Crime Decline? (2015) by Roeder, Eisen and Bowling