Research Center Events

Stern's Urbanization Project Hosts a Conversation with UCLA's Mark Kleiman

Ideal punishment for crime is swift, certain and fair.

As a part of the Conversations on Urbanization series held by NYU Stern’s Urbanization Project, Paul Romer, Professor of Economics and Director of the Urbanization Project at NYU Stern, University Professor and Director of NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, spoke with Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs, in a public presentation on October 9. During the conversation, they discussed crime and punishment in the United States.

In response to Professor Romer’s question on why the United States has a high level of crime, Professor Kleiman noted, "Between 1979 and 2010, the US crime rate actually dropped by 50% but the incarceration rate rose by 50%. We kept locking people up at lower levels of crime.” He explained that the problem lies in how the country addresses crime: "Ideal punishment for crime is swift, certain and fair.” Kleiman suggested that criminal justice in the US is too often characterized by delay, uncertainty and excessive severity. Changing this approach could reduce crime levels, he explained: "Punishment needs to arrive every time so that it gets associated with the behavior. … When the consequence is clear and learned, people will fall in line.” What’s more, Kleiman suggested that swift, certain and fair punishment can help people to make a permanent shift away from socially and personally destructive behavior.

Watch the full-length video here.