Optimal Imprisonment with General Enforcement of Law

Massimo D'Antoni, Tim Friehe*, Avraham Tabbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the optimal use of imprisonment when enforcement efforts are general (i.e. when the probability of detection is common for a range of acts). In contrast to the conventional wisdom that optimal imprisonment rises with the act's harmfulness and is equal to the maximum level only for the most harmful acts, we show that - when the distribution of criminal benefits exhibits a standard monotone hazard rate - optimal imprisonment can only be zero or maximal. Thus, having general as opposed to specific enforcement effort does not alter the fact that only extreme sanction levels should optimally be employed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-545
Number of pages9
JournalB.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • general enforcement
  • imprisonment
  • maximal sanctions


Dive into the research topics of 'Optimal Imprisonment with General Enforcement of Law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this