NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges

Will Dobbie, Jacob Goldin, Crystal Yang

NBER Working Paper No. 22511
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

Over 20 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States are currently awaiting trial, but little is known about the impact of pre-trial detention on defendants. This paper uses the detention tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to estimate the causal effects of pre-trial detention on subsequent defendant outcomes. Using data from administrative court and tax records, we find that being detained before trial significantly increases the probability of a conviction, primarily through an increase in guilty pleas. Pre-trial detention has no detectable effect on future crime, but decreases pre-trial crime and failures to appear in court. We also find suggestive evidence that pre-trial detention decreases formal sector employment and the receipt of employment- and tax-related government benefits. We argue that these results are consistent with (i) pre-trial detention weakening defendants' bargaining position during plea negotiations, and (ii) a criminal conviction lowering defendants' prospects in the formal labor market.

download in pdf format
   (566 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22511

Published: Will Dobbie & Jacob Goldin & Crystal S. Yang, 2018. "The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges," American Economic Review, vol 108(2), pages 201-240.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Bhuller, Dahl, Løken, and Mogstad w22648 Incarceration, Recidivism and Employment
Arnold, Dobbie, and Yang w23421 Racial Bias in Bail Decisions
Doleac and Hansen w22469 Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden
Dobbie, Goldsmith-Pinkham, and Yang w21032 Consumer Bankruptcy and Financial Health
Kleinberg, Lakkaraju, Leskovec, Ludwig, and Mullainathan w23180 Human Decisions and Machine Predictions
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us