Gambling on Crime: How Punishment May Encourage Offending

Greg Pogarsky, University at Albany
Alex R. Piquero, University of Florida

Under the doctrine of specific deterrence, an individual who is punished for a crime should be less likely to commit it again. That said, several recent studies find the opposite -- namely punished individuals appear more likely to offend in the future and believe the certainty of punishment is lower than do their less-/un-punished counterparts. This paper develops an analytical framework to investigate two competing explanations for this finding. Under the selection account, punishment simply identifies the most committed offenders who then, not surprisingly, recidivate. The second account, resetting, invokes a judgment and decision making bias known as the "gambler's fallacy." Under this explanation, after an individual is punished, they reset (reduce) their sanction risk estimate, apparently believing they would have to be exceedingly unlucky to be apprehended again. herein, we report a preliminary empirical investigation of these explanations.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006