3.00 credit hours
Crime and incarceration impose tremendous costs on society with lasting impact on individuals, families, and communities. Over the past four decades, the incarceration rate in the United States has grown to an historically unprecedented level with approximately 2.2 million people behind bars. In light of the substantial resources allocated towards crime, it is only natural to ask whether the criminal justice system achieves its goals. The purpose of this course is to develop the analytical skills necessary for understanding the economic rational for criminal law and the criminal justice system. Through the lens of microeconomic theory, we will deal with questions such as when and what to criminalize, the severity of punishment, the determinants of the supply of criminal activity, the effects of policing, and the optimal level of enforcement. This course will introduce students to key concepts in crime policy and help develop their policy analysis skills, including the ability to frame problems and policy alternatives, think critically about empirical evidence, use cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis to compare policy alternatives, and communicate the findings in writing.
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