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The Dollars and Sense of Criminal Justice: Missouri Provides Its Judges With the Cost of Incarceration September 19, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Criminal law, Law, Ethics & Society, U.S. Constitution.
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Should the fact that it costs about a half million dollars to incarcerate a convicted felon for 30 years be a consideration for the sentencing judge?  Or should it be an issue to be raised by defense counsel at a sentencing hearing?  What about the fact that an individual convicted of robbery could be sentenced to intensive probation at a cost of $9,000.00, but the designated incarceration will cost  the state $50,000.00?

Criminal activity and the resulting prosecution and incarceration in our country costs billions of dollars a year. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported in June, 2010: that “the United States currently incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. In 2008, over 2.3 million Americans were in prison or jail, and one of every 48 working-age men was behind bars. These rates are not just far above those of the rest of the world, they are also substantially higher than our own long-standing historical experience. The financial costs of our corrections policies are staggering. In 2008, federal, state, and local governments spent about $75 billion on corrections, the large majority of which was spent on incarceration.”

The Missouri Sentencing Commission is providing its judges with the cost of incarceration as additional information that may be considered when imposing a sentence.  The cost to society of releasing criminals as a result of shorter sentences or probation may be balanced against the literal cost of sending these people to prison.

It is a cost benefit analysis that ultimately has overall cost to society as its focus.   The question for some, is whether this type of calculation is appropriate in the criminal justice system.  Is it a necessary reality check or is the value of punishing criminal behavior priceless?  Are certain types of crime worth the punishment while others not so much?  The judgement is ours to render.

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3. julie - September 19, 2010

Tremendous ethics conversation!

4. Ruth - September 19, 2010

$$$$$ I don’t envision a dollar sign on an individual crime. How does one evaluate the cost and judge whether one crime equals another. It seems like specious reasoning to me. $$$

Supremacy Claus - September 21, 2010

Again. And, again with this story.

Is any fairness owed to the prosecution and to crime victims, or is only owed to the criminal? Are these costs a subtle ex parte pressure on judges without rebuttal in court? You know judges will become cost conscious rather than safety conscious. Whether yes or no, the election opponent will use these arbitrary costs numbers against the judge, arguing waste and fraud.

Say, an average criminal commits a felony a week. The real number is closer to a felony a day. How much is each worth. Say the taxpayer is willing to spend $1000 to avoid getting mugged, and does not lose the $400 in his wallet. And the neighbor, in front of whose house, the crime took place would have discount his house $10,000 if the crime were known to all potential buyers. Multiply this total by 50 if the criminal is not busy, and by 400 if he is busy. I know lawyer math stopped at the fourth grade, but this is a fourth grade word problem. I know the lawyer can do it. Which is cheaper, incarceration or probation?

Because this benefits only the defense bar, they should be forced to provide a list of all the unreported crimes of the defendant, immunized from prosecution, with estimates of cost of environmental impact, including, but not limited to cost of injuries, drops in real estate values, police time, estimates of the effect of a climate of fear in the area, including disruption of the education of scared children, who cannot concentrate on their studies, focusing, instead, on their fear of battery.

Any judge using cost as a factor in sentencing, rather than safety, should be personally held accountable for all subsequent damages caused by the busy repeat offender. The defense lawyers and their traitor, pro-criminal agencies should be held accountable in torts. After the third conviction in life, there should be a presumption of recidivism, and inability to be personally deterred by punishment. The criminal has little choice. The judge has lots of choice compared to the criminal and should make all subsequent, foreseeable victims whole out of his assets. He should carry professional liability insurance or post his assets in bond, if he wants to bet on releasing the criminal. Why should the foreseeable victim of crime bear the cost of the totally irresponsible, biased, pro-criminal, internal traitor? End all these self-dealt lawyer and judge immunities. Theirs is among the most dangerous of enterprises, and liability is fully justified. Indeed, self-dealt immunity has no legal, moral, nor policy justification. It is unconscionable both in procedure (self-dealing) and in substance (unjust burden of horrible costs of their irresponsible conduct and legal shenanigans falling on crime victims, especially if members of a minority).

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