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What Do Prosecutors Maximize? An Analysis of Drug Offenders and Concurrent Jurisdiction

Edward L. Glaeser, Daniel P. Kessler, Anne Morrison Piehl

NBER Working Paper No. 6602
Issued in June 1998
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics

This paper presents a model of prosecutors' decision-making processes in which prosecutors (both federal and state) internalize some of the benefits of reducing crime, but also care about developing their own human capital. Since U.S. attorneys make their decision first, they have the opportunity to take the cases that will further their human capital development, knowing that the local district attorneys will handle the other cases. Using two surveys on prison admissions, we find that defendants who are better educated, richer, married, white, have higher-paying occupations more likely to be incarcerated in the federal system. Conversely, state prisons are more likely to incarcerate individuals who are particularly likely to be difficult prisoners, despite the supposed advantages of federal prisons in dealing with the most dangerous criminals.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6602

Published: American Law and Economics Review, Fall 2000; issue 2: 259 - 290.

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