|It's Getting Too Expensive to Put People in Jail|
|Subject||Cost of Fighting Crime has Increased|
|Topic||Scarcity, Choice and Opportunity Cost|
Cost, State and Local Spending
Since the last time such costs were calculated in 1999 , costs of fighting crime have increased from $147 billion to $167 billion in 2001, up from only $36 billion in 1982.
While arrests have risen only about 6% since 1982, and the number of court cases has increased only about 6%, costs have skyrocketed. The number of inmates has increased by a factor of 3, up from 488,000 in 1985 to 1.3 million in 2001. Much of this increase reflects more punitive sentencing, mandatory minimum sentencing, tougher laws, and "three strikes and you're out" enforcement of those laws. These laws were created in the 1980s and 1990s, when state budgets were increasing, and people were more concerned about law and order than they were about costs. Now, as states face bigger and bigger budget deficits, governments are looking to cut costs any way they can. In 2001, the criminal justice system accounted for about 7% of state and local government costs, about the same amount spent on health and hospital care.
Costs of new prisons and the rising costs of operating prisons, including
additional security personnel and new security systems, have fostered
a number of alternative proposals about the way the current judicial system
operates. For example, many states are reconsidering mandatory minimum
sentencing, relaxing penalties for minor parole violations, and reconsidering
putting juveniles into adult prisons.
(Updated July, 2004)
|Source||Fox Butterfield, "With Longer Sentences, Cost of Fighting Crime is Higher." The New York Times. 3 May 2004.|
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