NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Richard Boylan

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Working Papers

November 2009Intended and Unintended Consequences of Prison Reform
with Naci H. Mocan: w15535
Since the 1970s, U.S. federal courts have issued court orders condemning state prison crowding. However, the impact of these court orders on prison spending and prison conditions is theoretically ambiguous because it is unclear if these court orders are enforceable. We examine states' responses to court interventions and show that these interventions generate higher per inmate incarceration costs, lower inmate mortality rates, and a reduction in prisoners per capita. If states seek to minimize the cost of crime through deterrence, an increase in prison costs should lead states to shift resources from corrections to other means of deterring crime such as welfare and education spending. However, we find that court interventions, that are associated with higher corrections expenditures, l...

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