Dr. Anne Morrison Piehl is an Affiliated Professor in the Program in Criminal Justice, as well as a Professor of Economics at Rutgers University; furthermore, she is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University in 1994, and her A.B. degree in Economics from Harvard University in 1986. She conducts research on the economics of crime and criminal justice. Piehl’s current work analyzes the causes and consequences of the prison population boom, determinants of criminal sentencing outcomes, and the connections between immigration and crime, both historically and currently. She currently serves on the Committee on Law and Justice of the National research Council, as well as on an NRC committee studying the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration. Previous she testified before the United States Sentencing Commission and the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Immigration and served on the New Jersey Commission on Government Efficiency and Reform (GEAR) Corrections/Sentencing Task Force. Before joining Rutgers in 2005, Piehl was on the faculty of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her research on the economics of crime and criminal justice been published in academic journals in the fields of economics, sociology, criminology, public policy, and law, as well as in a book, Prison State: The Challenge of Mass Incarceration, co-authored with Bert Useem (Cambridge University Press).
- Sentencing Guidelines and Judicial Discretion: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Human Calculation Errors (with Shawn Bushway and Emily Owens). There is a debate about whether advisory non-binding sentencing guidelines affect the sentences outcomes of individuals convicted in jurisdictions with this sentencing framework. Identifying the impact of sentencing guidelines is a difficult empirical problem because court actors may have preferences for sentencing severity that are correlated with the preferences that are outlined in the guidelines. But, in Maryland, ten percent of the recommended sentences computed in the guideline worksheets contain calculation errors. We use this unique source of quasi-experimental variation to quantify the extent to which sentencing guidelines influence policy outcomes. Among drug offenses, we find that the direct impact of the guidelines is roughly ½ the size of the overall correlation between recommendations and outcomes. For violent offenses, we find the same ½ discount for sentence recommendations that are higher than they should have been, but more responsiveness to recommendations that are too low. We find no evidence that the guidelines themselves directly affect discretion for property offenders, perhaps because judges generally have substantial experience with property cases and therefore do not rely on the errant information. Sentences are more sensitive to both accurate and inaccurate recommendations for crimes that occur less frequently and have more complicated sentencing. This suggests that when the court has more experience, the recommendations have less influence. More tentative findings suggest that, further down the decision chain, parole boards counteract the remaining influence of the guidelines.
- Immigration and Crime in Early 20th Century America (with Carolyn Moehling). We find that a century ago immigrants may have been slightly more likely than natives to be involved in crime. Aggregation bias and the absence of accurate population data meant that analysts at the time missed important features of the immigrant-native incarceration comparison, especially because the closing of the borders in the 1920s meant that immigrants were increasingly older than natives and, consequently, less prone to crime. Our analyses control carefully for age, and show that prison commitment rates for more serious crimes were quite similar by nativity in 1904, but by 1930, immigrants were less likely than natives to be committed to prisons at all ages 20 and older.
- Preparing Prisoners for Employment: The Power of Small Rewards (Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Civic Report no. 57, May 2009). This report describes a prisoner reentry program in Montgomery County, Maryland. At release, nearly 90% are employed. The paper argues that the behavioral techniques employed by this Pre-release Center can be adapted by other reentry programs or parole agencies to improve inmate accountability and attach inmates to the legitimate labor market.