Abstract: Incarceration rates have more than doubled in Australia over the past several decades, with a dramatic increase since 2010. There are many mechanisms by which these changes in imprisonment exert a causal influence on individual behaviour. The threat of incarceration can deter an individual from committing a crime. The experience of incarceration incapacitates a criminal but can also expose a prisoner to more criminal peers and reduce future legal employment opportunities. This article provides students an introduction to a rapidly expanding economics literature that empirically tests the mechanisms of incarceration and estimates its costs and benefits.
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