This study examines the factors that lead to crime as a rational choice and how these factors can be used to reduce recidivism and prison population. Building off Becker’s (1968) theory of crime as a rational choice, I apply this model to recidivism and discuss potential policy changes to reduce recidivism and prison population. In the empirical section, I construct a dataset from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and other sources to develop a difference in differences model examining the effects of decriminalization on parole completion percentage and total prison population. The results quantify the effects of marijuana decriminalization in reducing the prison population, which I use to estimate overall savings for the Justice System after corroborating my findings with cost estimates. This provides policy implications for governments focused on cutting prison costs and reducing prison populations without sacrificing the quality of conditions.


Histen, Joe


Business Economics


Behavioral Economics

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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