8 Rev. L & Econ. 1 (2012)

handle is hein.journals/rvleco8 and id is 1 raw text is: 














Deterred or Detained? A Unified Model of
Criminal Punishment

THOMAS J.   MICELI
University of Connecticut








The standard economic model of crime since Becker (1968) is primariy concerned nzth deterrence, but
actualpunishment polcies appear to revl on imprisonment to a greater extent than is prescibed by that
model. One reason may be the incapacitation function of prison. The model developed in this paper
seeks to incoporate incapaatation into the standard model. A ke finding of the hybrid model is that
when prison is the only form ofpunishment and the probabilip of apprehension is fixed, incapacitation
can result in a longer or a shorter optimalprison term compared to the deterrence-only model. Other
aspects of the standard model are studied ithin the context of the hjbrid model.


1. INTRODUCTION: THE COMPATIBILITY OF
DETERRENCE AND INCAPACITATION
The  standard economic  model  of crime as first developed by Becker (1968), and
brought  to its current level of maturity by Polinsky and Shavell (2000, 2007), is
primarily concerned with deterrence. Central to the BPS model (as I shall call it),
and crucial for deterrence to be possible, is the rational offender assumption, which
maintains that would-be criminals decide whether or not to commit  a crime by
comparing  the gains from an illegal act to the expected punishment. Although
some  may   doubt  the validity of this assumption, there  is ample empirical
evidence to support it.1
On   the basis of the rational offender assumption, the enforcement  authority
is able to  choose  the  optimal law  enforcement   policy, consisting of the
probability of apprehension and severity of punishment (the fine and/or prison
term), so as to maximize a social welfare function that consists of the net harm

*  I appreciate the comments of Steven Shavell and an anonymous reviewer on an earlier
version of this paper.
I  For a survey of the empirical literature, see Levitt and Miles (2007).


DOI: 10.1515/1555-5879.1603

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