Learning by doing: How do criminals learn about criminal law?
 
Abstract: This paper investigates how criminals learn about criminal laws. It uses the case of a natural experiment in which sentences were drastically increased for a specific type of recidivism in France. In the short run, advertising the reform did not trigger any change in criminal behavior. However, people who had first-hand experience of the reform learned about it and later committed significantly fewer targeted crimes, but the same number of non-targeted crimes. Learning appears to be limited to individuals with direct experience of the law. While co-defendants also learned, other criminal peers and defendants attending the same trial for another case did not.