CFDP 1450

Does Prison Harden Inmates? A Discontinuity-based Approach


Publication Date: January 2004

Pages: 31


Some two million Americans are currently incarcerated, with roughly six hundred thousand to be released this year. Despite this, little is known about the effects of confinement conditions on the post-release lives of inmates. Focusing on post-release criminal activity, we identify the causal effect of prison conditions on recidivism rates by exploiting a discontinuity in the assignment of federal prisoners to security levels. We find that harsher prison conditions are associated with significantly more post-release crime.


Crime, Prison, Recidivism, Social Capital, Peer Effects, Regression Discontinuity

JEL Classification Codes:  K14, K42, J24, H4


Published in American Law and Economics Review (Spring 2007), 9(1): 1-29 [DOI]