The deterrent effect of imprisonment and offenders' stakes in conformity

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16 Scopus citations


Using data on felony-convicted drug and nondrug offenders, this article compares recidivism rates of offenders sentenced to prison with those of offenders placed on probation. It also replicates and extends a previous study by Dejong. Testing the hypothesis that the deterrent effect of imprisonment is conditioned by the offender's stakes in conformity, results reveal offenders who were sentenced to prison had significantly higher recidivism rates than offenders placed on probation. Moreover, the effect of imprisonment did not depend on the offender's stakes in conformity; regardless of whether they had weak or strong bonds to conventional society, drug and drug-involved offenders who were incarcerated recidivated more often and more quickly than other types of offenders. Rather than serving as a more effective deterrent for offenders with stronger bonds to conventional society, incarceration may have transformed high-stakes offenders into low-stakes offenders with little to lose as a result of a new arrest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-50
Number of pages20
JournalCriminal Justice Policy Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Deterrence
  • Drug offenders
  • Recidivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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