Paying People to Stay Out of Jail

Should we pay people not to commit crime? Could we? Murat Mungan from GMU Law shows that it could pay in principle:

This article considers the possibility of simultaneously reducing crime, prison sentences, and the tax burden of …financing the criminal justice system by introducing positive sanctions, which are benefits conferred to individuals who refrain from committing crime. Specifically, it proposes a procedure wherein a part of the imprisonment budget is re-directed towards financing positive sanctions. The feasibility of reducing crime, sentences, and taxes through such reallocations depends on how effectively the marginal imprisonment sentence reduces crime, the crime rate, the effectiveness of positive sanctions, and how accurately the government can direct positive sanctions towards individuals who are most responsive to such policies. The article then highlights an advantage of positive sanctions over imprisonment in deterring criminal behavior: positive sanctions operate by transferring or creating wealth, whereas imprisonment operates by destroying wealth. Thus, the conditions under which positive sanctions are optimal are broader than those under which they can be used to jointly reduce crime, sentences, and taxes. The analysis reveals that when the budget for the criminal justice system is exogenously given, it is optimal to use positive sanctions when the imprisonment elasticity of deterrence is small, which is a condition that is consistent with the empirical literature. When the budget for the criminal justice system is endogenously determined, it is optimal to use positive sanctions as long as the marginal cost of public funds is not high.

It’s harder to implement in practice, however. Increasing the minimum wage and the EITC might be easier or maybe not.

Hat tip: Kevin Lewis.


Even if it's financially efficient, the moral cost is prohibitive and all to often ignored.

But what if crime were a “reciprocal problem”? Then the immoral thing would be not to bribe criminals! Coase theorem, anyone?

This is beyond bubble living but 100 percent autistism.

More free stuff. We are $22 trillion in debt and someone thinks giving out more free stuff will solve social problems. Wake up. We cannot afford the free stuff we already fund. It's all going to collapse. End all forms of welfare.

Not even wrong

Wouldn't paying people to stay out of jail encourage them to go to jail (i.e., commit a crime): one has to go to jail to qualify for payments to stay out of jail. Incentives for doing good that depend on first doing bad seem to have a built-in flaw.

You could potentially apply the "law" only to people who are currently in jail or presently moving throughout the justice system.

Yeah, that's not how the paper works. The paper is proposing paying everyone who has never been convicted of a crime. Once you are convicted, you stop getting paid.

Then, we already do that when we levy fines as criminal punishment. Having everyone pay taxes and fining those that commit crimes is equivalent to taxing (at a higher level), paying everyone that doesn't commit a crime, but not paying everyone that commits a crime. The latter case is like having everyone pre-pay fines and refunding the pre-payment if they don't commit a crime. Paying people to not commit crimes requires first levying higher taxes on them to pay for the payments.

Either way, it's still better to fine people than imprison them.

Even for murder?

There are plenty of people being jailed for victimless crimes. Start with those.

So down for this but only for incidents where your family is the victim. In fact in that instance who even cares about the fine. Let’s give them a bounty

Fucking evil idiots everywhere. Antisocial retards like you are the reason the internet is nearly unusable.

May you die in pain, and may it happen soon.

Bring it baby bitch. Lol. Guess you don’t like your high crime policies coming home to roost. Fuck that.

Go die in a fire, retard. This is what happens when bad faith communication becomes the norm and evil idiots like you aren't filtered out by the moderation. Fucking moron.

Lol you are acting like a baby. He’s 100 percent right. You want the high crime policies but want to insulate yourself from the externalities. You are the anti-social one shilling disastrous policies in order to status seek.

If you think they're high crime policies with negative externalities, you could have simply argued so instead of writing antisocial shit like

"but only for incidents where your family is the victim. In fact in that instance who even cares about the fine. Let’s give them a bounty"

I never said I want to insulate myself from any negative externalities. You are moving the goalposts, and I'm sure you're smart enough to be completely and utterly aware of that.

I'm done communicating with evil idiots. May you die in pain, and may it happen soon.

Who knew that the Anton Scalia School of Law at GMU was a nest of SWJs? Boy, the Federalist Society is probably feeling very embarrassed considering all the attention they have lavished on the place over the years, including influencing faculty and student selection and recommending and establishing legal programs, etc.

-26 Gryfinn_Clock: Tangential to the post and a clear sign of repetitive obsessive fixation regarding GMU

Because it presents a MORAL HAZARD, sir. Good Lord.

If we're at the point we pay criminals not to assault others, then I want my Yangbucks.

There are libertarian arguments that prisons are unjust and uneconomic and all punishment should be corporal, capital, or financial but for some reason you're not making them.

Moral hazard indicates you're making an unwanted behavior more likely by ignoring or rewarding it, right?

But what if, in a given population, 1% of the people would commit assault in a given year, and by paying those most likely to commit assault, we could lower that rate to .5% per year.

Would you still have the same worries, in that case?

Yes. What happens if the money runs out? Or these known pathological people start upping the ante?

Better result and minus the externalities if we just exile these people.

just guarantee everyone cradle-to-grave income & healthcare ??

Retired military receiving VA benefits and retirement payments?

Dumb comment even for Bill.

Those are payments for services rendered. Not really much different than a Federal or state employee who's retirement package include health care benefits.

Of course. But, you notice that Brook did not limit his statement to that. Now, look at it this way: everyone has an opportunity to sign up and serve. That is guaranteed employment, retirement and healthcare.

Isn't that "just guarantee everyone cradle to grave income and healthcare?"

"everyone has an opportunity to sign up and serve. "

No, that's not remotely true. Everyone has an opportunity to apply for a job with the military. But it's certainly not a guarantee. The benefits are not welfare, but payment for services rendered.

I think you only get retirement and healthcare benefits if you serve 20 years, though. It's definitely not guaranteed. Especially give that, ya might die before you hit the 20 year mark, regardless.

Moreover, the military, especially today's professional voluntary military, won't take just anyone who tries to enlist. IIRC, even back in the days of the draft they wouldn't take just anybody.

Oh, Rat, I want to give you another example that turns Brooks framing on its head, just as the comment about how everyone can get a job by joining the military.

Here's another:

Arkansas is conditioning Medicaid payments on community service, if you do not have a job.

This is giving people a job and free medical care.

Notice how, if you shift the meme, you get different reactions.

Rat, you responded well as part of a social experiment I just conducted on you. Thank you for your participation.

"Rat, you responded well as part of a social experiment I just conducted on you. Thank you for your participation."

And the same to you sir.

OTOH he’s unintentionally making a great case for military pension and benefit reform.

Isn't there an important distinction you're eliding, here, in that joining the military is voluntary, and they have to compete with other potential employers for recruits by offering some enticing benefits, whereas Medicaid is just a giveaway to the indigent, made slightly less onerous on the taxpayers financing it by attaching work/service conditions to it? Apples and oranges.

Nope because you still have to do something to get it , in the AR case, and the doing is also a voluntary choice. Indeed, how is it different from any of us taking a job for money and benefits rather than working for the pleasure of it?

At a job, you're paid in proportion to your productivity (at least roughly). I don't know what kind of dollar value you'd put on community service performed by unemployed Medicaid recipients in Arkansas, but I doubt it'd cover the program's $6 billion operating budget. That makes it very different, in my mind. The former relationship is positive sum for both parties. The latter isn't.

If one were smart about your money, you might use positive sanctions to disrupt a gang by taking out critical components or links in the network without doing a general payment system.

Payment doesn't have to be money. It can be status as a new member of a basketball team; or a summer job with adults.

Giving money for past behavior is not a good idea.

I'm old enough to remember a time when being paid not to commit a crime was called, "extortion."


Kipling was among the wisest men who ever lived.

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

More profound Kipling wisdom - 'The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than The male."

Of course, paying danegeld could be deemed preferable to warfare, until the Danes decide to raise the "stakes" or take everything.

Sounds like a reverse tax or a reward for bad behavior.

Analysis needed. Maybe exterminating all criminals would be economical compared to incarceration or paying extortion. Certainly may be

Well, the thing-formerly-known-as-blackmail is merely a clearing house for information, though our host narrowly concluded that dicey welfare considerations in the implementation of legal blackmail tilted in favor of keeping the status quo.

One word that I hope retains its nuance, its subtly lower status than "wise," is "clever."

In fairness, that's what governments do every time they tax someone.

Why is it that most economists' ethics or morals regularly converge to utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism appeals to people on the spectrum. Understand that for economists Cowen is highly social.

Put the private prisons on a starvation budget for housing inmates, then pay them a bonus for each parolee that does not re-offend at 1 year, 3 years, 5 years etc. Let them figure out the best way to reduce recidivism.

Funny, it is almost like offering cash rewards for some metric that is not market priced will somehow work THIS time.

The first round will be the prisons working overtime to get the highly likely recidivists into somebody else's prison (e.g. the feds, another state). This is relatively easy to do, particularly if you are willing to lie.

The next round will involve getting involved in the charging and sentencing setup. Campaign contributions could move a lot of low recidivism folks into prisons instead of community service.

Which of course brings up a big synthesis: increased churn of low level offenders. Each prisoner is a lottery ticket that might pay out. From the prison's perspective once a prisoner meets the minimum requirement to earn the bonus, they have every incentive to get him out so they can "purchase" another lottery ticket. It is beneficial for the prison to do this even if it substantially increases the odds that any individual prisoner recidivates.

Of course there will be push back to pay by percentage, adjusted for length of stay, and penalization for crimes committed by those you parole out. But each of these will in turn inspire new shenanigans, like say sabotaging a rival's prisoners.

I assure you that once the lawyers and the business consultants get done with it "paying for X" will almost always result in people gaming the definition of "X" more than just creating more X.

positive sanctions operate by transferring or creating wealth, whereas imprisonment operates by destroying wealth.

You'd have a hard time convincing me that paying criminals not to re-offend is wealth-creating. Transferring, sure. But I doubt there's many people out there whose choices range between committing a felony and starting a small business.

Why only choose one? I plan on starting a business that commits felonies in order to receive government payments.

So America now is a hostage of bold, demanding criminals.
Such is life in Trump's America.

Does EITC work in high unemployment areas where there are no jobs? It would help in areas with low unemployment.

Think about the externality created by EITC in a nearing full employment community.

Say, Walmart has to begin raising wages to attract the marginal (additional) worker. If it raises pay, it has to raise the pay of everyone, including the new marginal worker.

But, if you increase EITC, or introduce it, the marginal worker is getting an income increase from working, and thus drawn to Walmart, but, the other Walmart workers do not get the pay raise.

Only in America.

What are you even trying to say? I’m trying to follow your idiocy and it’s...tough.

A potential worker with a reservation wage of x stays out of the workforce since employers pay below x.

An increase in EITC takes effect.

Total wage with new EITC is > x, so potential worker decides to work.

Meanwhile all other workers below some threshold also gain the same increase in EITC.

Bill rages about “only in America.”


Notice what you said: other workers get increase in EITC beside the marginal worker. Also notice what I said: unemployment rates were low and Walmart would have to raise wages to attract the marginal worker.

I can't believe you don't see how this is a subsidy for Walmart.

Had there been no EITC, Walmart would have had to raise the wages to attract the marginal worker, AND would have had to raise the wages of the other workers.

I do rage Only In America (show me another country that has EITC).... why do we assist in the suppression of wages during an economy where low unemployment would raise wages.

Only in America.

If you profess not to understand my explanation, I will explain again.

HMMM, since you do not understand my explanation, let me cite the abstract of a Princeton paper which goes through the mechanics:

"The EITC is designed to encourage work. But EITC-induced increases in labor supply may drive wages down, shifting the intended transfer toward employers and hurting non- EITC low-skill workers. I exploit variation across family types and skill levels to identify the e􏰀ect of a large EITC expansion in the mid 1990s. Ceteris paribus, low-skill single mothers keep only $0.70 of every dollar they receive. Employers of low-skill labor capture $0.72, $0.30 from single mothers plus $0.43 from ineligible workers whose after-tax incomes fall when the EITC is expanded. The net transfer to low-skill workers is less than $0.28 per dollar spent."

My comments highlight the effect of EITC during a period of low unemployment.

I’d pay Jussie Smollett for not dragging the good band of intersectionality into the mud. And not a one time payment deal either; I’m talking putting him on a retainer. Because you (neither the state’s experts nor the Hayekian market) can’t put a price on the kind of work he does for freedom, liberty and equality.

Darn phone. I meant the good name of intersectionality.

I ideal solution is a blend of incentive and structure.

Having worked this problem for years as a small landlord, hare is what I find that works. Roundup the kids, voluntarily, and pay them a $150 for a three days in work camp. The payoff is two fold, they spend time in structure away from the drug wars. They get some spending cash are are not so desperate on returning to the hood.

One of the tricks is that is break up the drug cycle, asynchronous intervention stops a lot of pending drug deals and disrupts the cartel networks.

A blend, but it requires a very flexible local government and coordination between government agents.

I don't oppose using cash to modify behavior if the return (in this case less crime) exceeds the cost. That's a point made in the abstract. Or stated another way, I don't oppose tax cuts if the return (higher economic growth and resulting tax collections) exceeds the cost (the tax cut). If one accepts the latter, why would one reject the former? They are two sides of the same coin. Economic incentives work! Otherwise, why economics and economists.

Pay people not to do things? Like pay farmers not to grow crops?

My city is already hitting 2 out of the three mentioned goals, for "free," by issuing citations instead of making arrests, on civil rights grounds; and having a noticeably laissez-faire, what's-yours-is-theirs attitude toward property crime.

I assume the citations are for fairly minor crimes- which saves the taxpayers money too. I doubt the police are writing murder tickets instead of arresting killers.

The work opportunity tax credit would be a better alternative, especially if we tied the period of eligibility to a period of time after conviction or release to the sentence (either the maximum or the actual imposed -- I can see arguments on both sides). There should probably be a minimum period of a year or two.

How about we randomly shoot 1 of 10 convicted criminals.

Cheaper and I guarantee will lead to crime reduction.

Exemptions for Presidents?

Can he decide who gets pardoned?

Insane and evil idea. But presumably he means only those convicted in a court of law, not the fevered dreams of a community college sociology professor.

Time will tell.

It's not over till the SDNY fat lady sings.

Hmmm, Taught antitrust law and also at graduate business school, and practice law.

Sorry, no sociology, or I would understand you better.

This also has the benefit of not violating Blackstone's formulation.

IOW, another thought experiment offered by a sperg-dweeb made anxious by police officers and also by the prospect of disapproval offered by leftoid faculty members.

An NIT that cuts you off if you commit a felony?

Sooooooooo. . . basically "trick or treat." This is economics in 2019.

Halloween works! One night a year, and only costs $9 billion.

Alternatively, we could reward people who haven't committed crimes not with direct payout of cash money, but with first dibs on higher-paying jobs. Once you commit a crime, you don't have your choice of jobs.

In other words, the status quo.

There are already enough incentives in civilized society for not being an antisocial degenerate, and yet we still have antisocial degenerates. Adding direct cash payments isn't likely to change the behavior of would-be criminals.

The money would be better spent on providing free birth control and abortions for criminals and the women who love them.

Retarded idea. We would be paying millions of people who committed crimes but did not get caught or convicted. As often as the legal system makes errors by chance, this would guarantee errors.

The main problems in America is that:
1. We wrongly believe that fines and imprisonment are the only suitable punishments.
2. Our punishments are too light.
3. Convictions are too low
4. Prisons are a crime college for low opportunity cost people

This is a Beckerian recipe for high crime, fiscal and social costs.

We need to:
1. Reintroduce corporal punishment.
2. Have iron discipline in prisons.
3. Eliminate the exclusionary rule, diversion, expungement, unanimous juries, and most plea bargains.

I suspect that any discussion of crime should begin with three assumptions:
1. x% of individuals committing crime have the mental capacity of a 5 year old;
2. y% of individuals are incapacitated due to alcohol, drugs, mental illness;
3. z% of individuals act with malice and forethought.

Too much commentary not enough experience with crime.

Back to efficiency.

Might it be cheaper to pay people not to be victims of crime? Coase Theorem again.

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