The Market for Criminal Justice: Federalism, Crime Control, and Jurisdictional Competition

Part I introduces the concepts of jurisdictional competition and crime displacement and argues that, as a positive matter, a decentralized criminal justice system may create a competitive process among the different units composing it, in which each such unit attempts to divert crime to neighboring communities. Part II then turns to evaluate the normative aspects of jurisdictional competition in the area of criminal justice. In this context I will show that competition can have both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, the forces of competition might drive jurisdictions to fight crime efficiently, since any jurisdiction that functions inefficiently will suffer from a rise in its crime rate as a result of crime displacement. On the other hand, jurisdictions might face a collective-action problem in which they are spending increasingly high resources on their criminal justice system simply to deflect crime to their neighbors. In such a case, every jurisdiction ‘s interests would be served if jurisdictions could commit themselves not to compete in the area of criminal justice. The second half of Part II examines more closely the problem of inefficient competition in the realm of criminal justice, and explores different ways to deal with these inefficiencies. Finally, I offer concluding remarks as well as suggestions for future research.