University of Leicester
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Essays on the Political Economy of Crime and Punishment

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posted on 2021-11-11, 12:24 authored by Arpita Ghosh
The criminal justice system in the United States is characterized by racial disparity, mass incarceration, and often police brutality. Using a variety of administrative and survey datasets, this thesis analyses these three distinct features in the context of changing laws. The first set of results identifies the extent to which African American communities are penalized by the imposition of barriers to voting by ex-felons, who are disproportionately Black. It finds that vote suppression mechanisms can reduce political representation by members of these communities and lead to less liberal state policy choices. In light of the changes in the political landscape of the US in the past decade, this chapter explores one of the main racial disparity issues of American politics. Moreover, this thesis also teases out the effect of changes in Medical Marijuana Laws on the composition of crime and the prison population, by conceptualising the impact of these laws as a shock to the labour market opportunities of offenders. As countries around the world start adopting laws legalising and/or decriminalising marijuana possession and consumption, these results provide evidence as to how these laws affect the rate of other crimes. We show that these laws affect criminals from different age groups differently and also influence drug use patterns amongst them. Finally, the last part of this thesis explores the effect of police department restructuring on crime and clearance rates as measures of police performance. In the background of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 and the subsequent increased interest about radical changes to policing strategy, we study one of the few prior examples of such a change. We show that in this case police reforms did not translate to lower measured levels of crime. Although they do improve clearance rates for some crimes, suggesting a complex causal relationship between policing, crime, and clearance rates.



James Rockey;

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Business

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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