Focusing on the incapacitation path, this paper reviews prior research from the perspective of criminologists and economists, some new empirical contributions, and a methodological note raising a basic point about the related effort to maximize incapacitation effects by selective incarceration.
A substantial body of empirical research examines how the huge expansion in incarceration in the United States since the early 1970s has influenced crime. These studies merge the effects of three conceptually distinct paths by which incarceration might reduce crime: general deterrence, specific deterrence, and incapacitation. Incapacitation has acquired prominence primarily because of the claim that it is more readily estimated than the total effect. This paper focuses specifically on the incapacitation path. It reviews the individual papers and offers judgment as to the plausibility of progress using different research strategies. It emphasizes the potential for using individual level data to take advantage of natural experiments. References
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