1932

Abstract

The literature on the prevalence and causes of punishment has been dominated by research into the United States. Yet most of the world's prisoners live elsewhere, and the United States is no longer the country with the world's highest incarceration rate. This article considers what we know about the prevalence and causes of incarceration around the world. We focus on three features of incarceration: its level, inequality, and severity. Existing comparative research offers many insights, but we identify methodological and theoretical shortcomings. Quantitative scholars are still content to draw causal inferences from correlations, partly because (like qualitative scholars) they are often limited to studying the present and the developed world. More data will allow better inferences. We close by defending the goal of building precise and generalizable theories of punishment.

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2024-01-26
2024-04-23
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