Talking Economics: Behind Bars and Beyond - Insights into Criminal Behavior and the Czech Justice System

30 May, 2024

In the latest episode of Talking Economics, we explore the world of criminal behavior and the Czech justice system with a CERGE-EI alumnus Michal Šoltés, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics and Empirical Legal Studies at Charles University Faculty of Law.

"Crime is extremely costly for society," Michal explains, highlighting the multifaceted impacts of criminal activities. The costs extend beyond direct victimization to include long-term consequences on victims' careers, relationships, and overall well-being. The economic burden is further amplified by the substantial expenses associated with law enforcement, the judiciary, and the prison system. Beyond the direct costs, there are also indirect costs related to offenders' human capital. "If crime is so expensive and very costly for society, you might want to understand more about inmates or general criminals' preferences and perception," he concludes.

Michal acknowledges the growing interest in the economics of crime, driven by the availability of better data sets. In Scandinavian countries, detailed administrative data allows researchers to study peer effects within prison cells—how sharing a cell with a skilled drug dealer, for instance, might influence one's criminal trajectory post-release. This rich data enables more informed policy discussions.

The Czech Republic is also making progress, thanks to efforts by researchers and improved relationships with state prosecutors and judges. These relationships have facilitated unique studies, such as vignette experiments that provide insights into judicial decision-making.

Michal's recent study on inmates' perceptions and preferences offers a valuable glimpse into the mindset of offenders. The research uses data collected directly from inmates to understand their views on the risk of sanctions and their behavioral patterns. Surprisingly, inmates often overestimate the risk of being caught and incarcerated compared to the general population. Michal’s findings also indicate that inmates are willing to share resources equally with fellow inmates and the general public, challenging the notion of a distinct "criminal brotherhood."

Listen to our conversation with Michal on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or YouTube.

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