Progressively Tougher Sanctioning and Recidivism: Assessing the Effects of Different Types of Sanctions [2017]

The study tests two related hypotheses about recidivist sentencing premiums and the progressive sanctioning logic on which they rest: (1) among first-time felons, punitive sanctions will more effectively reduce recidivism than will less severe sanctions and (2) among second-time felons, progressively tougher sanctions will more effectively reduce recidivism than will progressions to comparable or less severe sanctions.

We use data on first-time and second-time felons and propensity score matching analyses to test these two hypotheses.

Although tougher punishment, and increasingly tougher punishment among second-time offenders, may sometimes reduce recidivism, less severe punishment appears on average to be more effective.

The results raise questions about the effects of both tougher, and progressively tougher, types of sanctions in efforts to reduce recidivism.

Daniel P. Mears, Joshua C. Cochran

Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol 55, Issue 2, 2018