NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Michael Poyker

Columbia Business School
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New York, NY 10027
Tel: 310-904-8978

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Institutional Affiliation: Columbia University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

March 2019How Common are Electoral Cycles in Criminal Sentencing?
with Christian Dippel: w25716
Research on electoral sentencing cycles consistently shows that elected judges levy longer sentences when they are up for re-election. However, this research draws on data from a small number of states. We use newly collected sentencing data from a broader set of states to study the overall pervasiveness of sentencing cycles across U.S. states. We confirm the presence of electoral sentencing cycles in previously studied states, but find no evidence for such cycles in the two-thirds of states in our data that are newly added. In short, electoral sentencing cycles do not appear pervasive overall, and there is a lot of heterogeneity in their presence across states. This heterogeneity extends to the timing of observed cycles and to whether they are targeted at minority defendants. The presence...
Do Private Prisons Affect Criminal Sentencing?
with Christian Dippel: w25715
Using a newly constructed complete monthly panel of private and public state prisons, we ask whether private prisons impact judges’ sentencing decisions in their state. We employ two identification strategies, a difference-in-difference strategy comparing court-pairs that straddle state-borders, and an event study. We find that the opening of private prisons has a large effect on sentence lengths shortly after opening but this effect dissipates once the prison is at capacity. Public prison openings have no such effects, suggesting that private prisons have an impact on criminal sentencing that public ones do not.
 
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