Columbia Business School
Uris Hall 126
New York, NY 10027
Institutional Affiliation: Columbia University
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|March 2019||How Common are Electoral Cycles in Criminal Sentencing?|
with Christian Dippel: w25716
Existing empirical evidence suggests a pervasive pattern of electoral cycles in criminal sentencing in the U.S.: judges appear to pass more punitive sentences when they are up for re-election, consistent with models of signaling where voters have more punitive preferences than judges. However, this pervasive evidence comes from only three states. Combining the existing evidence with data we collected from eight additional states, we are able to reproduce previous results, but find electoral cycles in only one of the eight additional states. Sentencing cycles appear to be the exception rather than the norm. We find that their existence hinges on the level of competition in judicial elections, which varies considerably across states.
|Do Private Prisons Affect Criminal Sentencing?|
with Christian Dippel: w25715
This paper provides causal evidence of the effect of private prisons on criminal sentencing. Our identification strategy uses state-level changes in private-prison capacity and compares changes in sentencing across trial court pairs that straddle state borders. We find that a doubling of private prison capacity raises sentence lengths by 1.3 percent, but not the likelihood of conviction. The effect is not driven by changes in state legislation, and we find no evidence for ‘judicial capture’. We do find some evidence that judges may internalize the lower cost of imprisonment in private prisons. Lastly, private prisons do not appear to accentuate existing racial biases in sentencing decisions.