NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence

A. Mitchell Polinsky, Steven Shavell

NBER Working Paper No. 6259
Issued in November 1997
NBER Program(s):   LE

This article studies the implications for the theory of deterrence of (a) the manner in" which individuals' disutility from imprisonment varies with the length of the imprisonment" term; and (b) discounting of the future disutility and future public costs of imprisonment. Two" questions are addressed: Is deterrence enhanced more by increasing the length of imprisonment" terms or instead by raising the likelihood of imposing imprisonment? What is the optimal" combination of the severity and probability of imprisonment sanctions?"

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6259

Published: Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, no. 1 (January 1999): 1-16.

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