UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays in the economics of crime Macdonald, David C.


The second chapter explores Truth in Sentencing (TIS) laws, which eliminate discretion in the release of inmates and reduce the incentive for rehabilitative effort. I use a regression discontinuity (RD) design to exploit a sharp cutoff in these incentives created by the introduction of TIS in Arizona. I show that judges reduced sentences by 20%, resulting in no change in time served, allowing parole incentives to be isolated as the mechanism of interest. I find that rule infractions increased by 50%, while education program enrolment fell by 20%. Further, I find offenders were 7 percentage points more likely to return to prison after release. To explore heterogeneity, I apply the generalized random forest algorithm to the RD framework. I find that the increase in violent infractions was largest for serious offenders, who saw an increase of 150% to 200% in infractions. The third chapter shows that the introduction of post-release supervision in North Carolina resulted in a 250% increase in returns to prison. This increase is due to 30% of those supervised receiving a release revocation. By 3 years post-release, supervised offenders are returned to prison 36% more often. This indicates that many who were returned to prison due to a revocation, may not have in the absence of supervision. I further show that supervised offenders were 4 percentage points less likely to have obtained a new conviction 2 years after release, and this gap grows to 6.5 percentage points 5 years after release. This indicates that incapacitation due to release revocations can not fully explain the reduction in convictions. In the final chapter, I explore a temporary homeless shelter program. I employ a difference-in-differences strategy to identify the causal effect of these shelters on property crime. I find that in the month a shelter opens there is no increase in reported crime near a shelter, but in later months crime increases by 120% on the block a shelter is located. There is little evidence these impacts extend beyond a shelter’s immediate block.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International