Escalating penalties for repeat offenders
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Common sense suggests that repeat offenders should be treated differently from first-timers, and actual punishment schemes mirror this view. This chapter demonstrates economic theory does not always coincide with common sense or common practice. Sometimes, this is due to departures of the real world from assumptions of the standard model, while in others it is because actual policy is sometimes based on values, like fairness, not included in the standard economic model. In both instances, however, an expanded version of the economic approach that accounts for these other circumstances or values can often go a long way toward explaining the observed policy. The chapter offers several possible reasons for the common practice, with particular emphasis on two that involve considerations that, while perhaps ubiquitous, are outside of the standard economic model of crime. These are offenses that are committed "accidentally" by some first-timers, and crimes that stigmatize those who have committed them.