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Crime, punishment, and politics: an analysis of political cycles in criminal sentencing

Berdejó, Carlos and Yuchtman, Noam (2013) Crime, punishment, and politics: an analysis of political cycles in criminal sentencing. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 95 (3). pp. 741-756. ISSN 0034-6535

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Identification Number: 10.1162/REST_a_00296


We present evidence that Washington State judges respond to political pressure by sentencing serious crimes more severely. Sentences are around 10% longer at the end of a judge's political cycle than at the beginning; judges' discretionary departures above the sentencing guidelines range increase by 50% across the electoral cycle, accounting for much of the greater severity. Robustness specifications, nonlinear models, and falsification exercises allow us to distinguish among explanations for increased sentencing severity at the end of judges' political cycles. Our findings inform debates over judicial elections, and highlight the interaction between judicial discretion and the influence of judicial elections.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2013 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2019 14:32
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:29

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