In an article recently published on the pages of this Law Review, The Market for Criminal Justice: Federalism, Crime Control, and Jurisdictional Competition (“The Market”), I put forward a theory of crime control in a decentralized government. Specifically, I made three distinct claims. First, criminal justice policies affect the geographic decision of criminals as to where to commit their crimes. Other things being equal, criminal activity will tend to shift to areas in which the expected sanction is lower. Second, local jurisdictions attempting to lower their crime rates will react to policies adopted by neighboring jurisdictions and try to keep up with their neighbors’ sanctioning levels. In other words, the optimal expected sanction for a certain jurisdiction cannot be derived from the characteristics of that jurisdiction alone; it must incorporate the expected sanctions of neighboring jurisdictions. Third, competition among local jurisdictions in the area of criminal justice could be both efficient (a race to the top) and inefficient (a race to the bottom) depending on the specific context over which jurisdictions are competing.
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