Monday, January 25, 2010

Prime Time to Commit Crime

A new state law in California is letting criminals go free earlier with good behavior (from the San Diego Union-Tribune):
The new rules, which are applied retroactively, allow inmates to cut as much as one-half off their jail sentence. They were included in a bill signed as part of last year’s budget package that will reduce state prison populations.
In a recession, people are more likely to be financially (and otherwise) desperate and thus more prone to crime. In addition, they can rationally expect shorter prisoner sentences as states find other pressing needs to spend money on besides housing criminals (according to one source, it costs $79 a day to house a prisoner but $3.50 to keep the criminal on probation).

I wonder if the law (and ones like it) will be reversed once the economy picks up again. Perhaps someone could do an econometric regression to see if mean prison terms are a function of macroeconomic factors.