Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prison costs money


ST. LOUIS — When judges here sentence convicted criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the State of Missouri.

For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.

Some people deserve imprisonment, obviously, but does putting a price tag on a sentence make a judge less inclined to sentence someone to five years in jail for, say, possession when the sentence will cost a year's salary? Will be very interesting to look back in a few years and see how this information affects sentencing in Missoura.


The Cobalt Guy said...

I think this is an excellent advancement in sentencing actually. With all things considered, when you stop to take a look into the prison systems and the history surrounding them, you see a tipping of the scales back and forth between rehabilitation and punishment. And public policy-philes often discuss the very topic of cost/effectiveness and prison vs rehabilitative programs. And a lot of the costs that most people don't realize coming out of this system is from people who commit crimes in order to end up in a jail, where they have shelter, clothing, and free food. This is most often found with prostitutes, drug addicts and homeless. Which brings you to another issues surrounding prisons, and that is overcrowding. Then to the privatization of prisons which led to HIGHER costs for the taxpayers and worse care of prisoners (I know most people say who cares? but consider these are sons, daughter, husbands, wives, and or parents.) How about women's prisons that provide for mothers to keep their children with them at the prison (low security, but still prison). Just a little nugget to chew on.

The Cobalt Guy said...

And what about the cost of a death sentence trial?

excerpt from

he average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought. A study found that those defendants whose representation was the least expensive, and thus who received the least amount of attorney and expert time, had an increased probability of receiving a death sentence. Defendants with less than $320,000 in terms of representation costs (the bottom 1/3 of federal capital trials) had a 44% chance of receiving a death sentence at trial. On the other hand, those defendants whose representation costs were higher than $320,000 (the remaining 2/3 of federal capital trials) had only a 19% chance of being sentenced to death. Thus, the study concluded that defendants with low representation costs were more than twice as likely to receive a death sentence.