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On the Optimum Use of Incarceration for Crime Control

Alfred Blumstein and Daniel Nagin
Operations Research
Vol. 26, No. 3 (May - Jun., 1978), pp. 381-405
Published by: INFORMS
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/169751
Page Count: 25
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On the Optimum Use of Incarceration for Crime Control
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Abstract

In recent years serious attention has been given to the potential of imprisonment to reduce crime by "general deterrence," which discourages criminal behavior in the general population through the threat of punishment and by "incapacitation," which involves physically separating criminals from the rest of society. Also of fundamental importance to the use of prison is evidence that suggests that the imprisonment rates (prisoners per capita) in the U.S. fluctuates only within very narrow limits. This apparent constraint suggests the need for an overall framework for reducing crime that best uses the limited resource, man-years of imprisonment. In this paper we develop a model that estimates total crime rate as a function of imprisonment policies, incorporating estimates of deferrent and incapacitative effects. Using imprisonment rate as a constraint, we develop an optimization framework to minimize crime rate and use it to explore implications of alternative incarceration policies. An illustrative example, using data from 1970, is provided.

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