Panel Paper: Shared Punishment? The Impact of Criminal Sentences on Defendants, and Their Children

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row E (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Martti Kaila, University of Helsinki, Kristiina Huttunen, Aalto University, Tuomas Kosonen, Labor Institute for Economic Research and Emily Nix, University of Southern California

Most criminal justice systems use a "ladder" of punishments in response to criminal activity, starting with less severe punishments such as fines, and progressing to more severe punishments such as prison either as a defendant commits more crimes or more severe crimes. In this paper, we estimate the causal impacts of three common punishments - fines, probation, and prison - on defendants' future criminal and labor market outcomes and the spillovers on their families. We find that prison has a mixed impact, decreasing the number of future criminals charges but also decreasing future labor market earnings. Fines, on the other hand, have no impact on labor market outcomes, but increase future criminal activity, although fines do not lead to a statistically significant increase in the probability of committing more severe crimes in the future compared to other punishments. Probation does not impact labor market outcomes and may moderately decrease charges. Regarding children, results are nuanced. We find no statistically significant impact of incarceration on early child outcomes or child criminal activity, but suggestive negative impacts on later outcomes such as labor force attachment and whether the child obtains a degree by age 19.