The use of prisons as a commons problem: An exploratory study

Michael Polakowski, Michael Gottfredson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Whether crime trends have significantly changed over the past decade is less important than the general inclination to adopt policies that increase arrest potential, promote longer enhanced sentences, and eliminate traditional parole practices. Such strategies are often adopted without considering their effects on an already exhausted criminal justice resource: prisons. Using a common pool resources approach ordinarily employed in economic and biologic research to investigate the potential depletion of resources that are held in common, the authors examine the use of and estimate the actual needs for prison space by the county-level sentencing authorities in a southwestern state. Results suggest that the actions of a few jurisdictions within the state significantly affect the overuse of prison as a sentencing alternative. The authors examine the significance of such findings for future research as well as potential policy alternatives that may incorporate the concept of prison as a common pool resource.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-93
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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