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On the Usefulness of Controlling Individuals - An Economic Analysis of Rehabilitation, Incapacitation, and Deterrence

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1981
16 pages
This economic analysis examines the impact of rehabilitation, incapacitation, and deterrence on the aggregate crime rate to determine whether or not these individual crime control measures are useful.
The economic model of the market for offenses assumes that potential offenders, victims, buyers of illegal goods and services, and law enforcement officials all behave according to the fundamental rules of maximizing behavior (i.e., achievement of the maximum benefit at the least cost). In previous works, equilibrium in the market for offenses has been synthesized out of the interplay between only two groups: potential offenders, representing the supply side of the market, and law enforcement authorities, representing public intervention designed to increase the cost of offenders doing business. This analysis introduces the roles of potential victims and buyers of illegal goods and services, who, by their respective demands for safety or for illegal transactions, dictate the shape of the private 'derived demand' for offenses. Using these components, the basic equilibrium analysis concerning the effectiveness of public intervention in the market for offenses is developed. More specific implications for crime control via rehabilitation and incapacitation are considered, and some related empirical evidence is examined. The analysis is used to derive additional implications for the choice of optimal criminal sanctions, and a number of general implications regarding the treatment of individual offenders and specific types of crime are illustrated. The appendix presents a general analysis of maximum removal effects. Mathematical equations and 26 references are provided.

Date Published: January 1, 1981