Blame avoidance and policy stability in developing democracies: The politics of public security in Buenos Aires
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.5129/001041516819582973
Democratization originally inspired hope that new regimes would privilege human rights. However, progressive reforms to the criminal code have been insufficient to stem dramatic increases in incarceration rates, and developing democracies have made little headway reforming their ineffective police forces. How can we explain the stability and enforcement of punitive criminal justice policies and the erosion of police reforms? We offer a novel theoretical explanation of these contrasting patterns through a comparison of these two policy areas in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Incentives to avoid blame for salient crimes discourage politicians from repealing punitive criminal justice policies and incentivize judges to enforce them. Responsibility for failed police reforms, however, is harder to assign, giving the police and their allies opportunities to undermine them.