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Incarceration and Desistance: Evidence from a Natural Policy Experiment

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $599,510)

The applicant proposes the first ever quasi-experimental assessment of the impact of prison on desistance taking advantage of South Dakota’s Public Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (SB70). SB70 was a major sentencing reform that dramatically reduced the likelihood of prison and the length of prison terms for a wide range of non-violent offenders. SB70 provides a unique opportunity to make use of a “natural policy experiment” to address the important question of how prison (i.e., both likelihood and length of prison term) influences desistance. The applicant proposed a quasi-experimental approach combining a regression discontinuity design with propensity score weighting methods. The study’s goal is to utilize the exogenous variation in exposure to prison induced by SB70 to disentangle how prison affects desistance; testing two competing approaches to desistance (life course and career criminals) and to estimate the causal effects of incarceration (both likelihood and length) on desistance using a large administrative dataset covering 19 years for over 200,000 individuals who were arrested for any offense in South Dakota after 2000 (n › 200,000 individuals).

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 13, 2019