More from Shapiro on Prisons

To follow up the last post I wanted to point out this portion of Shapiro and Chen’s latest paper on prisons. They write,

For example, if upon release a low security inmate is subject to more frequent drug tests than his minimum security counterpart, our results may be picking up an increased probability of rearrest that has nothing to do with increased criminal tendencies…
While we cannot entirely rule out this explanation, we know of no federal parole policy that specifies a relationship between supervision intensity and security level of releasing facility, and we note that even the large differences in supervision intensity studied by Petersilia and Turner (1993) did not produce large enough effects to explain the majority of the effect we estimate.

I wonder if this data were available, how prevalent the effect would be derived from drug testing alone compared to other criminal behaviors. Their comment surrounds the scrutiny that ex-cons go through. I wonder if evidence would support the claim that drug use itself (rather than testing frequency) is correlated with harder prison stays. It seems reasonable to me that an inmate might pick up the habit to cope with being inside, or take up the habit when he gets out for any number of reasons associated with being released.

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