Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/161032
Authors: 
Mueller-Smith, Michael
Schnepel, Kevin T.
Year of Publication: 
2016
Series/Report no.: 
IZA Discussion Papers 10409
Abstract: 
This paper studies the causal impact of court deferrals, a legal strategy to help defendants avoid a felony conviction record, on the future criminal and labor market outcomes of first-time felony drug offenders. To accomplish this, we exploit two natural experiments in Harris County, Texas, in which defendants appearing in court one day versus the next experienced abruptly different likelihoods of deferral. In 1994 deferral rates dropped by 34 percentage points the day following the implementation of a penal code reform; in 2007 deferral rates increased by 22 percentage points the day after the unexpected failure of a ballot initiative to expand the county jail. Using administrative data and local polynomial regression discontinuity methods, we find robust evidence consistent across both experiments that regimes with expanded use of court deferrals generated substantially lower rates of reoffending and unemployment over a five-year follow-up period. Additional analysis delves further into the timing, nature and incidence of these impacts. Together our results suggest that increasing the use of deferral programs may be an attractive and feasible option for a jurisdiction seeking to reduce the fiscal cost and community impact of its criminal justice system.
Subjects: 
felony records
criminal justice
drug offenders
recidivism
labor market
JEL: 
J24
K14
K42
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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