There is an old prisoner’s dilemma used for statistics classes which demonstrates the variance in sentencing that occurs, based upon the choices made by people accused of crimes. From Wiki:
“Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (”defects”) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?”
It seems simple enough. For the greater good of all, both men should not say a thing, and only serve 6 months each. However, very often in the case of the criminal element, one man will choose six months of freedom, causing the other man to serve ten years. Or, both men will know the other will probably take the deal, and they’ll both end up with a 5-year sentence, 4.5 years of which was entirely avoidable had they both requested a lawyer and said nothing else.
Apply this case to steroid dealing. Very often, a person will be caught receiving a package. It’s a very minor charge, and he’d most likely be looking at simple probation, if he was even convicted at all. However, to avoid the mark on his record, he’ll often reveal everything he knows about every steroid dealer or deal from his entire life. It quickly becomes the “Prosecutor’s Dilemma” as he decides which dealer or buyer to target first.
Without the cooperation of the accused, convictions in steroid cases would drop tremendously. If every person who was involved in steroid dealings were to sit down with their partners and study the potential outcomes of the “Prisoner’s dilemma”, they’d quickly see that in every possible scenario, the choice of saying nothing and asking for a lawyer is always the best route to take. Additionally, if suspects can keep quiet during the initial round of separated questioning, they can often use the same lawyer, ensuring they aren’t forced to testify against one another.
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