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Prison Reform

Economics/Politics

The Tragedy Of The Commons In The Prison System

In a previous article, I wrote about how the war on drugs and the government monopoly on the legal system has created the Tragedy of the Commons in our justice system. Because legislators and police officers have every incentive to appear “tough on crime” but the cost of the sending a criminal to a courtroom is socialized, the courts have become increasingly backlogged. What that article did not cover is the related “commons problem” in the prison system and the consequences that follow. Where legislators and police officers have in-built incentives to send as many people through the courts as possible, a similar incentive is faced by judges and prosecutors to send defendants through the prison system. Because all judges and prosecutors share common access to prison space with no individual cost for doing so, there is zero incentive for the limitation on the sentence sought by the individual prosecutor or handed down by the individual judge. Keep Reading

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