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The Effects of Time in Prison and Time on Parole on Recidivism

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In the United States, every year roughly 600,000 people are released from prison, two-thirds of them without having served their full sentence behind bars. Yet little is known about how release before full completion of sentence affects recidivism. I exploit the distinction between sentence and time served in prison to better understand how custodial and noncustodial sanctions affect recidivism. In particular, I study the effects of time in prison and time on parole on recidivism. Relying on two instrumental variables that provide independent variation in sentence and time served in prison, I do not find evidence that parole time affects recidivism. However, I find that a month in prison results in a 1.12-percentage-point decrease in the probability that an individual will reoffend while on parole, but it appears to have no effect on overall reoffending.

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