The economics of prisons

The parent trap

Could sending criminals to prison be good for their kids?

 


 

May 6th 2021 | words 416

 


IN A FORTHCOMING paper in the American Economic Review, one of the disciplines most prestigious journals, three economists conclude that [p]arental incarceration has beneficial effects on some important outcomes for children. Unsurprisingly the study has provoked outrage from keyboard warriors. Some are uncomfortable with the very notion that prison could have anything other than wholly malign effects. Others worry that the research, however well intentioned, gives politicians ammunition to double down on punitive penal policy. In reality, though the study has some uncomfortable findings, it should help governments devise better policy.



incarcerate


incarcerate / inksreit; NAmE -krs- / 

verb [VN]

[usually passive] ~ sb (in sth) (formal) to put sb in prison or in another place from which they cannot escape

SYN imprison 

incarceration / inksrein; NAmE -krs- / noun [U]


provoke


provoke / prvuk; NAmE -vouk / 

verb

1. [VN] to cause a particular reaction or have a particular effect

The announcement provoked a storm of protest.   

 

The article was intended to provoke discussion.   

 

Dairy products may provoke allergic reactions in some people.   

 

2. ~ sb (into sth / into doing sth) to say or do sth that you know will annoy sb so that they react in an angry way

SYN goad :

The lawyer claimed his client was provoked into acts of violence by the defendant.   

, 

Be careful what you sayhe's easily provoked.   

,


wholly


wholly / hulli; NAmE houlli / 

adv. (formal)completely

SYN totally :

 wholly inappropriate behaviour   

 

The government is not wholly to blame for the recession.   


malign


malign / mlain /

adj. [usually before noun]

(formal) causing harm

a malign force / influence / effect   

//


ammunition


ammunition / mjunin / 

noun [U] 

1. a supply of bullets, etc. to be fired from guns

2. information that can be used against another person in an argument

(),,

The letter gave her all the ammunition she needed.   


double down (on sth)


double down (on sth)

phrasal verb

to continue to do something in an even more determined way than before:

 Expect to see Fox double down on its marketing efforts to give the movie a big boost .

  Instead of learning from his mistakes , he's doubling down.

We're doubling down; we're going to keep on going because we've committed too much to stop .

  Why double down on these disastrous policies ?

 Development agencies should double down on efforts to encourage saving and investments in small businesses .


punitive


punitive / pjuntiv / 

adj. [usually before noun] (formal

1. intended as punishment

There are calls for more punitive measures against people who drink and drive.  

 

He was awarded punitive damages (= in a court of law).  

 

2. very severe and that people find very difficult to pay

()

punitive taxes  

  

punitively adv. 


devise


devise / divaiz / 

verb [VN]

to invent sth new or a new way of doing sth

SYN think up 

A new system has been devised to control traffic in the city.   




The authors analyse 30 years worth of high-quality administrative data from the state of Ohio. They study children whose parents are defendants in a criminal case. Using a clever methodology, they in effect divide the children into two groups, which are identical except in one crucial respect: whether or not one of their parents was sent to prison. In some cases, parents who committed relatively minor crimes were on the wrong side of harsh judges, whereas others got off scot-free for the same offence.


scot-free


scot-'free 

adv. 

(informal)without receiving the punishment you deserve

They got off scot-free because of lack of evidence. 

 ,

ORIGIN This idiom comes from the old English word 'scot' meaning 'tax'. People were scot-free if they didn't have to pay the tax. scot ,scot-free

Etymology scot-free  

O.E. scotfreo "exempt from royal tax," from scot "royal tax," from O.N. skot "contribution, reckoning, shot" + freo (see free). Related to O.E. sceotan "to pay, contribute," Du. schot, Ger. Scho "tax, contribution" (see shot). O.Fr. escot (Fr. cot) "share" is a Gmc. loan-word.



The paper reports a number of outcomes, not all of which are improved by a parental stay in prison. The estimates on academic performance and teen parenthood are imprecise, the authors say. But a parents incarceration lowers the chance of their child going to prison from 12.4% to 7.5%. It also appears to cause the children to go on to live in better-off neighbourhoods, which could be a sign that household earnings rise. Perhaps having a parent go to prison scares a child straight; or perhaps removing a bad influence from a family allows those left behind to thrive.


imprecise


imprecise / imprisais / 

adj.

not giving exact details or making sth clear

SYN inaccurate 

an imprecise definition   

 

imprecise information   

 

The witness's descriptions were too imprecise to be of any real value.   

, 

OPP precise 

imprecisely 

adv.

These terms are often used imprecisely and interchangeably.   

, 

imprecision / imprisin / noun [U] :

 There is considerable imprecision in the terminology used.   


better-off


better-off

adjective

1being in better circumstances, especially economically:

Only the better-off nations can afford to send probes into space.




Does this mean that America would benefit from even tougher penal policy? Hardly. The papers findings suggest that the overall costs of the prison system, including the money spent on housing inmates, are likely to outweigh the benefits. The true messages of the paper are subtler. Any effort to reduce Americas sky-high incarceration rate, though noble, would need to reckon with the costs that it might impose on some children. It is a sorry state of affairs that American kids could stand to gain when their parents are locked up. The challenge for economists and politicians is to find policies to help them that are not as socially destructive.



inmate


inmate / inmeit /

noun one of the people living in an institution such as a prison or a mental hospital

() 


subtle


subtle / stl / 

adj. (subtler, subtlest)

HELPMore subtle is also common. * more subtle

1. (often approving) not very noticeable or obvious

subtle colours / flavours / smells, etc.  

   

There are subtle differences between the ten versions.  

 

She's been dropping subtle hints about what she'd like as a present.   

 

2. (of a person or their behaviour ) behaving in a clever way, and using indirect methods, in order to achieve sth

I decided to try a more subtle approach.   

 

3. organized in a clever way

a subtle plan     

a subtle use of lighting in the play   

 

4. good at noticing and understanding things

:

The job required a subtle mind.   

 

subtly / stli /

adv.

Her version of events is subtly different from what actually happened.   

 

Not very subtly, he raised the subject of money.   

,


impose


impose / impuz; NAmE impouz /

verb

1. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sth / sb) to introduce a new law, rule, tax, etc.; to order that a rule, punishment, etc. be used

,()

A new tax was imposed on fuel.   

 

2. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sb / sth) to force sb / sth to have to deal with sth that is difficult or unpleasant

to impose limitations / restrictions / constraints on sth  

//  

This system imposes additional financial burdens on many people.    

3. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sb) to make sb accept the same opinions, wishes etc. as your own

():

 She didn't want to impose her values on her family.   

 

It was noticeable how a few people managed to impose their will on the others.  

, 

4. [V] ~ (on / upon sb / sth) to expect sb to do sth for you or to spend time with you, when it may not be convenient for them

()

'You must stay for lunch.' 'Well, thanks, but I don't want to impose...'   

"" ",,

 Everyone imposes on Dave's good nature.  

  

5. [VN] ~ yourself (on / upon sb / sth) to make sb / sth accept or be aware of your presence or ideas

,(): 

European civilization was the first to impose itself across the whole world.   










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Economist | The parent trap

 


The economics of prisons

The parent trap

Could sending criminals to prison be good for their kids?

 


 

May 6th 2021 | words 416

 


IN A FORTHCOMING paper in the American Economic Review, one of the disciplines most prestigious journals, three economists conclude that [p]arental incarceration has beneficial effects on some important outcomes for children. Unsurprisingly the study has provoked outrage from keyboard warriors. Some are uncomfortable with the very notion that prison could have anything other than wholly malign effects. Others worry that the research, however well intentioned, gives politicians ammunition to double down on punitive penal policy. In reality, though the study has some uncomfortable findings, it should help governments devise better policy.



incarcerate


incarcerate / inksreit; NAmE -krs- / 

verb [VN]

[usually passive] ~ sb (in sth) (formal) to put sb in prison or in another place from which they cannot escape

SYN imprison 

incarceration / inksrein; NAmE -krs- / noun [U]


provoke


provoke / prvuk; NAmE -vouk / 

verb

1. [VN] to cause a particular reaction or have a particular effect

The announcement provoked a storm of protest.   

 

The article was intended to provoke discussion.   

 

Dairy products may provoke allergic reactions in some people.   

 

2. ~ sb (into sth / into doing sth) to say or do sth that you know will annoy sb so that they react in an angry way

SYN goad :

The lawyer claimed his client was provoked into acts of violence by the defendant.   

, 

Be careful what you sayhe's easily provoked.   

,


wholly


wholly / hulli; NAmE houlli / 

adv. (formal)completely

SYN totally :

 wholly inappropriate behaviour   

 

The government is not wholly to blame for the recession.   


malign


malign / mlain /

adj. [usually before noun]

(formal) causing harm

a malign force / influence / effect   

//


ammunition


ammunition / mjunin / 

noun [U] 

1. a supply of bullets, etc. to be fired from guns

2. information that can be used against another person in an argument

(),,

The letter gave her all the ammunition she needed.   


double down (on sth)


double down (on sth)

phrasal verb

to continue to do something in an even more determined way than before:

 Expect to see Fox double down on its marketing efforts to give the movie a big boost .

  Instead of learning from his mistakes , he's doubling down.

We're doubling down; we're going to keep on going because we've committed too much to stop .

  Why double down on these disastrous policies ?

 Development agencies should double down on efforts to encourage saving and investments in small businesses .


punitive


punitive / pjuntiv / 

adj. [usually before noun] (formal

1. intended as punishment

There are calls for more punitive measures against people who drink and drive.  

 

He was awarded punitive damages (= in a court of law).  

 

2. very severe and that people find very difficult to pay

()

punitive taxes  

  

punitively adv. 


devise


devise / divaiz / 

verb [VN]

to invent sth new or a new way of doing sth

SYN think up 

A new system has been devised to control traffic in the city.   




The authors analyse 30 years worth of high-quality administrative data from the state of Ohio. They study children whose parents are defendants in a criminal case. Using a clever methodology, they in effect divide the children into two groups, which are identical except in one crucial respect: whether or not one of their parents was sent to prison. In some cases, parents who committed relatively minor crimes were on the wrong side of harsh judges, whereas others got off scot-free for the same offence.


scot-free


scot-'free 

adv. 

(informal)without receiving the punishment you deserve

They got off scot-free because of lack of evidence. 

 ,

ORIGIN This idiom comes from the old English word 'scot' meaning 'tax'. People were scot-free if they didn't have to pay the tax. scot ,scot-free

Etymology scot-free  

O.E. scotfreo "exempt from royal tax," from scot "royal tax," from O.N. skot "contribution, reckoning, shot" + freo (see free). Related to O.E. sceotan "to pay, contribute," Du. schot, Ger. Scho "tax, contribution" (see shot). O.Fr. escot (Fr. cot) "share" is a Gmc. loan-word.



The paper reports a number of outcomes, not all of which are improved by a parental stay in prison. The estimates on academic performance and teen parenthood are imprecise, the authors say. But a parents incarceration lowers the chance of their child going to prison from 12.4% to 7.5%. It also appears to cause the children to go on to live in better-off neighbourhoods, which could be a sign that household earnings rise. Perhaps having a parent go to prison scares a child straight; or perhaps removing a bad influence from a family allows those left behind to thrive.


imprecise


imprecise / imprisais / 

adj.

not giving exact details or making sth clear

SYN inaccurate 

an imprecise definition   

 

imprecise information   

 

The witness's descriptions were too imprecise to be of any real value.   

, 

OPP precise 

imprecisely 

adv.

These terms are often used imprecisely and interchangeably.   

, 

imprecision / imprisin / noun [U] :

 There is considerable imprecision in the terminology used.   


better-off


better-off

adjective

1being in better circumstances, especially economically:

Only the better-off nations can afford to send probes into space.




Does this mean that America would benefit from even tougher penal policy? Hardly. The papers findings suggest that the overall costs of the prison system, including the money spent on housing inmates, are likely to outweigh the benefits. The true messages of the paper are subtler. Any effort to reduce Americas sky-high incarceration rate, though noble, would need to reckon with the costs that it might impose on some children. It is a sorry state of affairs that American kids could stand to gain when their parents are locked up. The challenge for economists and politicians is to find policies to help them that are not as socially destructive.



inmate


inmate / inmeit /

noun one of the people living in an institution such as a prison or a mental hospital

() 


subtle


subtle / stl / 

adj. (subtler, subtlest)

HELPMore subtle is also common. * more subtle

1. (often approving) not very noticeable or obvious

subtle colours / flavours / smells, etc.  

   

There are subtle differences between the ten versions.  

 

She's been dropping subtle hints about what she'd like as a present.   

 

2. (of a person or their behaviour ) behaving in a clever way, and using indirect methods, in order to achieve sth

I decided to try a more subtle approach.   

 

3. organized in a clever way

a subtle plan     

a subtle use of lighting in the play   

 

4. good at noticing and understanding things

:

The job required a subtle mind.   

 

subtly / stli /

adv.

Her version of events is subtly different from what actually happened.   

 

Not very subtly, he raised the subject of money.   

,


impose


impose / impuz; NAmE impouz /

verb

1. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sth / sb) to introduce a new law, rule, tax, etc.; to order that a rule, punishment, etc. be used

,()

A new tax was imposed on fuel.   

 

2. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sb / sth) to force sb / sth to have to deal with sth that is difficult or unpleasant

to impose limitations / restrictions / constraints on sth  

//  

This system imposes additional financial burdens on many people.    

3. [VN] ~ sth (on / upon sb) to make sb accept the same opinions, wishes etc. as your own

():

 She didn't want to impose her values on her family.   

 

It was noticeable how a few people managed to impose their will on the others.  

, 

4. [V] ~ (on / upon sb / sth) to expect sb to do sth for you or to spend time with you, when it may not be convenient for them

()

'You must stay for lunch.' 'Well, thanks, but I don't want to impose...'   

"" ",,

 Everyone imposes on Dave's good nature.  

  

5. [VN] ~ yourself (on / upon sb / sth) to make sb / sth accept or be aware of your presence or ideas

,(): 

European civilization was the first to impose itself across the whole world.   










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