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The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization


Recidivism rates are a growing concern due to the high cost of imprisonment and the high rate of ex-prisoners returning back to prison. One policy-relevant and potentially important determinant of recidivism is the composition of peer inmates. In this paper, we study the role of peer effects within a correctional facility using data on almost 80,000 individuals serving time in Georgia. We exploit randomness in peer-composition over time within prisons to identify effects of peers on recidivism rates. We find no evidence of peer effects for property or drug-related crimes in the general prison population. However, we find strong peer effects when we define peer groups by race and age. Our findings indicate that homophily plays a large part in determining the strength of peer exposure among prisoners in the same facility. These results suggest that prison assignments can be used to reduce recidivism for particular groups of prisoners. (JEL K14, K40).


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript. Working paper.

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