A positive externality to petty graft?

George Will’s second last column talks about solitary confinement but touches on an interesting statistic. The US incarcerates a massively disproportionate number of people.

I was wondering how this could be the case for a country with legally enshrined due process and generally respected cops. Americans don’t seem any more prone to crime than others.

Could it be that the absence of corruption in the ranks is to blame?

It is commonly known that when visiting a developing country, one ought to keep a little cash on hand to bribe the cops. Does this law enforcement ‘discretion’ act as a check against unnecessary arrest? Isn’t it analogous to an immediate fine?

Lets leave aside, for a moment, the obvious incentive effects.

The problem with due process is that no single participant can end it until its run its full course. Assuming that automatic arrest happens mostly when crime is obvious, it’s reasonable to expect that most instances of due process end in conviction.

Would it not be preferable to attach a larger cost to initiation of the process so that law enforcement doesn’t feed the beast with nonviolent petty lawbreakers?

Maybe the chance of an immediate “fine” is a more efficient deterrent… It’s not like the insane level of American incarceration is a preferable outcome.

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