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D’Amico speaks about different nations’ incarceration rate

Visiting professor’s speech ‘Why Nation’s Jail’ part of larger series of events called ‘Fireside Chat’

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daniel D’Amico, lecturer in economics and and associate director of the Political Theory Project, discussed his research on the incarceration rates among nations in a talk titled “Why Nation’s Jail” Wednesday night. The talk was hosted by the Intercollegiate Finance Journal and was part of a larger event series, “Fireside Chat,” which aims to bring conversations occurring within IFJ to the larger community.

In the talk, D’Amico touched on why some nations have higher incarceration rates than others, through the lens of public choice theory, the use of economics to examine global social and political problems.

D’Amico began his talk by laying down background information on the legal origins of how various countries around the globe incarcerate. D’Amico explained the organization and intention of political systems by pointing to a chart with columns of “policy implementing” and “conflict solving” with rows of “hierarchical authority” and “coordinate authority.” He referenced the British legal system as common law, characterized by a decentralized structure.  Meanwhile, the French legal system has civil law, characterized by its codification. D’Amico then explained that the French system has lower numbers of incarceration than the British system, though there is a larger sector of governmental involvement in incarceration within common law countries like Britain.

“Legal systems are big bundles of rules, incentive processes and differences of how they do the law. The outcome they are interested in is economic performance.”

Though D’Amico said “mass incarceration transcends the U.S. experience,” he also stressed that much can be done to alleviate the social problems that come with mass incarnation. Historically, institutional structures matter more when it comes to determining incarceration rates than the organization of criminal justice authorities.
Though D’Amico touched on economic theories that widely implicate the United States’ incarceration rates, he was able to set a conversational tone, as he explained difficult topics and joked about an email from his coauthor who said his data was “robust af.”

Vanessa Zhang ’19, the executive secretary of IFJ, planned the event. “We’ve done this event in the past with students. We’re trying to become a more involving community and involve people outside of IFJ at these events.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Daniel D’Amico is a visiting professor of political science. In fact, he is a lecturer in economics and associate director of the Political Theory Project. The Herald regrets the error.

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