Prison Labor: the Price of Prisons and the Lasting Effects of Incarceration

Belinda Archibong (Barnard College, Columbia University)
Nonso Obikili (Stellenbosch University)

Abstract : Institutions of justice, like prisons, can be used to serve economic and other extrajudicial interests, with lasting deleterious effects. We study the effects on incarceration when prisoners are used primarily as a source of labor using evidence from British colonial Nigeria. We digitized sixty-five years of archival records on prisons from 1920 to 1995 and provide new estimates on the value of prison labor and the effects of labor demand shocks on incarceration. We find that prison labor was economically valuable to the colonial regime, making up a significant share of colonial public works expenditure. Positive economic shocks increased incarceration rates over the colonial period. This result is reversed in the postcolonial period, where prison labor is not a notable feature of state public finance. We document a significant reduction in contemporary trust in legal institutions, like police, in areas with high historic exposure to colonial imprisonment. The resulting reduction in trust is specific to legal institutions today.

Shaking Criminal Incentives

Theodore Koutmeridis (University of Glasgow)
Yu Aoki (University of Aberdeen)

Abstract : We study criminal incentives exploiting the devastating shock of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Evidence shows that the earthquake decreased burglaries but left other crime types unaffected. The effect stays significant even after controlling for unemployment, policing and income. We corroborate this by instrumenting damages with the distance from the earthquake epicentre. These findings survive various robustness checks under different specifications. The evidence is consistent with a simple theory of crime, value and specialization. We conclude that burglars respond to damages that devaluate their prospective takings. Yet, they cannot shift their specialization and substitute burglaries with other crime types.

Procedural Justice or Procedural Excuse? Strategic Adjudication of Eminent Domain Cases in Chinese Courts

Shitong Qiao (The University of Hong Kong)
Chaoqun Zhan (Sun Yat-Sen University)

Abstract : This paper is the second part of the first comprehensive examination of how China’s courts adjudicate eminent domain cases. Our new dataset, including 2,376 decisions issued by all of the 31 high people’s courts in China from 2014 to 2017, confirms the dominance of procedure in courts’ adjudication of eminent domain cases. What’s more important, utilizing the revision of China’s administrative litigation law as an exogenous shock, we are able to identify whether the emphasis on procedure is because of judges’ belief in procedural justice or because procedural rules provide a convenient, cost-effective way for judges to make decisions, which we call it a strategic choice. Specifically, the revision of China’s administration litigation law, which took effect on May 1, 2015, significantly increased the workload of judges by requiring Chinese courts to accept cases without a preliminary screening as far as there is a plausible cause. The sudden increase of workload will affect the behaviour patterns of judges with regard to procedural arguments if the emphasis on procedure is mainly a strategic move; while should have no effect if it is a belief. Our regression results confirm that the upholding rate of procedural mistake (PM) claims of the property rights holders significantly increases after the reform, the increase is mainly contributed by courts experienced larger increase in workload. Furthermore, we established that upholding PM is less effective in protecting property rights holders after the reform, especially in courts experienced larger increase in workload. Overall this empirical study not only reveals the dominance of procedure in Chinese courts’ adjudication of eminent domain disputes, but also demonstrates that it is a strategic choice under the pressure of workload instead of a belief in procedural justice, and only provides weak protection for property rights holders.

Firearms and Violence Under Jim Crow

Patrick Warren (Clemson University)
Michael Makowsky (Clemson University)

Abstract : Historical rates of firearm access in the United States remain uncertain. Using hand-coded vital statistics records, we calculate the fraction of recorded suicides committed with a firearm as a proxy to separately assess state firearm access rates for black and white households in the U.S. South from 1913 until 1999. Our estimates support the historical interpretation of early 20th century state-level gun regulations as efforts to disarm black residents in the Jim Crow South, followed by black residents successfully re-arming themselves during the civil rights movement. We find that firearms offered black residents an effective means of self-defense, while also calling into question the classification of firearm deaths recorded as accidents. Using records of lynchings from 1913 to 1949, we find evidence that the number of black lynchings decreases with greater black firearm access. During the height of the civil rights movement (1954 to 1968), we observe that white homicide deaths increased with black firearms. Black homicide deaths, however, are not sensitive to black firearms. We instead observe that rates of black ``accidental death by firearm'' _decreased_ with black firearms, a result which supports historical anecdotes of frequent misclassification of black homicides, including lynchings, as accidents or of causes unknown.