Students Staff

09 May 2016

Study shows drop in reoffending rates when illegal immigrants with criminal records gained legal status

Professor Giovanni Mastrobuoni

Professor Giovanni Mastrobuoni.

Newly released illegal immigrant prisoners in Italy who were then granted legal status were 50 percent less likely to reoffend than those who remained classified as illegal, according to new research from the Universities of Essex and Bocconi.

The findings relate to those whose original crime was an economically motivated one, such as burglary or theft. Violent offences that are not economically motivated, such as homicides and assaults, show much smaller changes.

The research, which was conducted by Professor Giovanni Mastrobuoni from our Department of Economics  and Paolo Pinotti from Bocconi University, has just won Best Paper at the 2016 American Economic Association Awards.

Their focus was the aftermath of a mass clemency in Italy in August 2006 that resulted in the release of 22,000 prisoners, including more than 9,600 non-Italians, from jail. The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union on January 1, 2007 then effectively granted legal status to some of the released prisoners overnight, whilst leaving their counterparts from other countries with illegal status.

The study consulted data from the Italian Department of Prison Administration to track reoffending rates of those released in order to compare the Romanians and Bulgarians with the immigrants from other countries who hadn’t go on to gain legal status in 2007.

The research found that rearrest rates evolved quite similarly for the two groups in the last few months of 2006 but diverged almost immediately after the January EU expansion.

Speaking about the research, Professor Mastrobuoni said, “In showing that the crime rate drops when people are given legal status, we are highlighting one benefit of legalisation. We believe the findings are rooted in the fact that having legal status leads to better job opportunities.”

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