Citation Release, Decarceration, and Crime in Washington, DC




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In March 2020, the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department expanded its policeinitiated citation release to allow officers to release subjects arrested for certain non-violent felony offenses (ex: larceny-theft). This decarceration effort was designed to reduce COVID-19 transmission in jails and avoid maintaining custody of people pre-trial, as too many custodial arrests would impair the operations of the Superior Court of DC during the public health emergency. Using crime incident, arrest report, and jail population data from DC for 2013 through 2020, this dissertation investigates the effect of the citation release policy modification (i.e., jail decarceration) and arrests on four types of economic crime: robbery, burglary, theft from motor vehicles, and other theft. Vector autoregression analyses suggest arrests do not deter crime and there was no detectable “decarceration” effect from expanding citation release eligibility during the study period. Findings do not support macro-level deterrence theory or the premise of a decarceration effect that has been identified in studies of prisons.



Sociology, Criminology and Penology