The Economics of Crime and Punishment                                        Le Moyne College

Prof. Ted Shepard                                                                                          Spring 2005



Office RH  #336


Office Hours: Monday, 10:00-11:00 and Wednesday 10:00-11:00, or by appointment.

Phone: 445-4235


Course Description: This course will examine contemporary issues related to crime and punishment from an economic perspective.  Some basic economic concepts that are useful for evaluating criminal justice issues will first be developed.  Following this several topics will be explored in depth, including 'tough on crime' policies, the war on drugs, and capital punishment.  The readings for the course are drawn from across the social sciences; however, the central focus will be on evaluation of the underlying economic issues. 


Course Objectives: In this course you will learn to apply economic reasoning to examine a host of public policy concerns related to crime and punishment.  Should we abandon the death penalty?  Should we continue to get tougher on crime as represented by harsh sentencing with mandatory minimums, no parole 3 strikes, etc.?  Should we legalize currently illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin?  There are no simple answers to these questions, but public policies need to be developed with careful consideration of underlying economic realities and economic effects.  Your ability to evaluate the merits of alternative policies or proposals for reform should be significantly enhanced by an understanding of economic methods. 


About Class: Classes will consist of a mix of lectures, class debate and discussion, outside speakers, films, and student presentations.  Regular class attendance is expected.  If you miss a class, try to let me know in advance (e-mail or phone message), and be sure to see me or obtain the notes for the class from another student. Your grade for the class will be partly based on class participation.


Grades and Course Requirements: Final grades will be determined on the basis of the following 5 areas.


1. Quantitative profile or reaction papers           (10 percent)

2. Mid-term exam                                             (25 percent)

3. Research paper                                           (25 percent)

4. Final exam                                                    (25 percent)

5. Class attendance and participation                 (15 percent)


Special Challenges: If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please meet with me within the first week of class or as soon as possible thereafter.  Students, who believe that they may have a disability, but who have not yet had their disability documented, should immediately contact and meet with the director of the Academic Support Center. 


Required readings: Four books are available in the college bookstore.  They are inexpensive and written to be accessible to a broad audience.  Other required or recommended readings are available on-line or will be placed on electronic reserve at the college library. 

1. Race to Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer

2. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, by Jeffrey Reiman

3. Drug War Crimes: Consequences of Prohibition by Jeffrey A. Miron

4. Just Revenge: Costs and Consequences of the Death Penalty by Marc Costansa


The schedule and additional readings are identified in the course outline below.


Part I. Introduction (3 weeks)

1. Basic Economic concepts.

2. Rationality, Scarcity, and Opportunity Costs.

3. The Supply and Demand Model

4. Efficiency and competitive markets

5.Cost-benefit analysis of criminal justice concerns

6. The economic model of criminal behavior

7. The economic costs of crime and punishment

Readings :

            Week 1: Jan 17-23

1.      Principles of Microeconomics, Mankiw, 3rd edition. Chapters 4 and 5, pp. 63-109

2.      Sex, Drugs, and Economics, Diane Coyle, Introduction and Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-22.

Week 2: Jan 24-30

3.      The Race to Incarcerate, Chapters 1 and 2, pages 1-40.

4.      The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2, pp. 1-94

Week 3: Jan 31-Feb 6

5.      Topics in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, Cooter and Ulen, Chapter 12 of Law and Economics, pp. 478-516 available at .

6.      The Prison Industrial Complex, Eric Schlosser (Dec 1998) Atlantic Monthly,     electronic and print copies available at the Le Moyne College library.


See also:

1.1.  Cigarette Taxes, Black Markets, and Crime: Lessons from New York’s 50-Year Losing Battle, by Patrick Fleenor, available at

2.      Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure, by Mark Thornton, available at:

3.      There’s no justice in the war on drugs, By Milton Friedman, The New York Times, Sunday 11 January 1998, available at 

4.      We Own the Night, Amadou Diallo’s Deadly Encounter with
New York City’s Street Crimes Unit, by Timothy Lynch, available at:


Part II.  Evaluation of Public Policy Approaches (4 weeks: Feb 7- March 5)

1.  Profiles of crime, criminals, victims, historical trends, and international comparisons.

2. The Prison Industrial Complex

3. Incarceration; historical trends and international comparisons

4. Broken windows theory

5. Mandatory minimums and other get tough policies.

6.. The militarization of law enforcement



Week 4: Feb 7 – Feb 13

1.      The Race to Incarcerate, Chapters 3- 7, pp. 42-140.


 ***Quantitative profile or first reaction paper due Friday, Feb 11***


Week 5: Feb 14-Feb 20

2        The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, Introduction and Chapters 3, 4, and conclusion, pp. 103-199.


Week 6: Feb 21-Feb 27

  1. Broken Windows, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling (1982),Atlantic Monthly
  2. Shattering Broken Windows, Justice Policy Institutes, at .
  3. Poking Holes in the Theory of Broken Windows, D.W. Miller, Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 9, 2001


Week 7: Feb 28- March 6

  1. Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments, available at
  2.  The Creeping Militarization of the Home Front, by Gene Healy, available at:


See also:


1.      Preserving Our Liberties While Fighting Terrorism, by Timothy Lynch, available at:   

2.      Law as a Weapon: How RICO Subverts Liberty and the True Purpose of Law
      By William L. Anderson and Candice E. Jackson, available at

  1. No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident, by Timothy Lynch, available at: .
  2. Why Crime Declines, by Bruce L. Benson, available at:
  3. 5.  Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking, by Radley Balko, available at:
  4. 6. Watching You Systematic Federal Surveillance of Ordinary Americans, by Charlotte Twight, available at
  5.  Why are we so Punitive? Some Observations on Recent Incarceration Trends
    April 2004 Center on Juvinile and Criminal Justice, available at
  6. Escape from America’s Prison Policy, (Marc Kleiman and Steven M. Teles), The American Prospect, Vol. 11, No. 20, September 11 2000, available at


*** Mid term exam Monday, March 7***


Part III Special topic: the War on Drugs (4 weeks: March 8-April 10)


1.      Historical Perspective and the economic effects of the drug war

2.      Perspectives from law enforcement

3.      Medical Marijuana

4.      Rockefeller Drug Laws

5.      The policy debates: legalize, regulate, reform



            Week 8: March 7-March 13

1.      Drug War Crimes, Jeffrey Miron, pages 1-88

2.      The Drug War Goes Up in Smoke, by SASHA ABRAMSKY, the Nation, August 18, 2003, available at .


 Week 9: March 14–March 20

3.3.   Drug-Related Crime 8/94 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice, available at .

4.      The American Drug War: Anatomy of a Futile and Costly Police Action, by
      Bruce L. Benson, available at:

3.5.  The President's National Drug Control Strategy March 2004 , Introduction, available at

6.      Drug Policy for Crime Control, Marc Kleiman,Policy Options, Vol. 19, No. 8, October 1998. available at


Week 10: March 21-March 24

7.      Marihuana as Medicine: A Plea for Reconsideration Grinspoon, Lester and Bakalar, James B, Journal of the American Medical Association. 1995; 273(23): pp. 1875-76, available at

High Court High Anxiety, National Review,

2.10. Thoughts on the Medical Cannabis Issue, Marc Kleiman, Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin, No. 2, May 1997., available at

 ***Spring Break March 25-April 3***


Week 11: April 4-April 10

11.  Against the Legalization of Drugs, James Q. Wilson, Commentary, 1990, on electronic reserve at the Le Moyne College Library.

11.12. End to Marijuana Prohibition: by Ethan Nadelmann with Footnotes, by Nadelmann, E. National Review,Sept 2004, available

13.   Nadelmann, Ethan A. and Walters, John P., et al. National Review. September 27,        2004, available at

11.14. The Case for Legalization. Nadelmann, Ethan, Public Interest. 1988; 92: pp. 3-17 available at      


Recommended additional reading on the Drug War:

1.      The Secret of Worldwide Drug Prohibition: The Varieties and Uses of Drug Prohibition, by Harry G. Levine, available at

2.      Punishment and prejudice: Racial disparities in the war on drugs. Fellner, J;  New York, NY: Human Rights Watch. 2000. 28 pp. available at   

3.      Prohibition vs. legalization: Do economists reach a conclusion on drug policy?, available, Thornton, M. at 

4.      A Critique of Estimates of the Economic Costs of Drug Abuse, by Jeffrey Miron, available at

1.5.  A Society Of Suspects: The War on Drugs and Civil Liberties by Steven Wisotsky, available at

6.  Thinking About Drug Legalization, by James Ostrowski, available at

7. Illicit Drugs and Crime, by Bruce L. Benson, David W. Rasmussen, available at

8.  "Why the 'War on Terror' is Unlike the 'War on Drugs,'" (Marc Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins and Peter Reuter), Federation of American Scientists Public Interest Report, March/April 2002, available at 

9.   "Illicit Drugs and the Terrorist Threat: Causal Links and Policy Implications," , Marc Kleiman, report prepared for the Congressional Research Service, 2002, available at


Part IV. Special Focus on Capital Punishment. (3 weeks: April 11-May 1)

a. Historical perspective

b. The economic costs of the death penalty

c. The deterrence debate.

d. Arguments for and against the death penalty


Week 12: April 11-April 17

            1. Just Revenge, Marc Costanzo chapters 1-5, pp 1-94.

            2. Death penalty is a deterrent, George E. Pataki, Governor of New York State
USA Today - March 1997, available at


Week 13: April 18-April 24

            3.  Just Revenge, Marc Costanzo chapters 6-9, pp 95- 199.

4. Capital Punishment and Homicide, Sociological Realities and Econometric Illusions, Ted Goertzel, available at




Week 14: April 25-May 1

            3. The Causes of Wrongful Conviction, By Paul Craig Roberts, available at

            3.  Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty, report of
 Death Penalty Information Center, available at


Classes end Friday, May 6. During the last week of class students will form panels to present findings from their research paper.  Information about the research paper will be handed out in class. 


Final Exam. The final exam will be open book and will cover material from the readings, classes, and presentations.


Information Sources. A list of web sites with articles, commentary, and quantitative information on crime and punishment are suggested below. Help in accessing the information can also be provided by the economics tutors at the Academic Support Center.  Information about the format and content of the quantitative profile and the research paper will be handed out in class.  

1. The Source of Criminal Justice Statistics

  1. U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics
  2. The White House Drug Policy Office

  1. University of Virginia Geostat Crime Data

  1. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports

6. Common Sense for Drug Policy ,
5. The Drug Policy Alliance at   
6. The Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice
The Cato Institute

8. Media Awarenes Project.

9. Death Penalty Information Center

10. Pro Death Penalty web page