The effects of punishment to crime in Colombia on deterrence, incapacitation, and human capital formation

Available from: 
October 2013
Paper author(s): 
Arlen Guarin (Banco de la Republica)
Jorge Tamayo (Banco de la Republica)
Carlos Medina (Banco de la Republica)
Conflict, Crime and Violence

Based on individual data of all arrested population in Medellín, we assess whether the discontinuous change in punishment at 18 mandated by criminal law, has a deterrent effect on arrests. We find no deterrence effect on Index, violent or property crimes, but we do find one that lowers non index crimes, in particular, those related to drugs consumption and trafficking, which implies an elasticity of arrests with respect to punishment that varies between -1.0 and -6.7 percent. The number of days arrested individuals take to recidivate is 300 days higher in the case of Index Crimes, if they are arrested right after, rather than before, they reach 18 years of age, and in these cases they are less likely to recidivate in any type of crime. The change in criminal legislation at 18 years of age does not explain future differences in human capital formation among the arrested population that had been arrested immediately after versus immediately before they reach 18 years of age. We do not find evidence that the longer lengths of time to recidivate of individuals arrested for first time immediately after they reach 18 imply future differences in human capital formation.


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Research section: 
Lacea 2013 annual meeting
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