Although a fiscal argument against mass incarceration is not complete enough to address the deeply imbedded, multifaceted issues we face, there still exists a strong argument to be made from a cost-benefit perspective. Right on Crime provides a wealth of information and some promising solutions.
“In 2006, the United States arrested approximately 1.89 million people for drug-related offenses, up from 581,000 in 1980. Many of these offenders were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. They were not immediate threats to public safety, but it was in society’s best interest to ensure that they stopped abusing drugs. Taxpayers are entitled to ask whether incarceration is accomplishing that goal.” *see http://www.rightoncrime.com/priority-issues/substance-abuse/
“It is not clear, however, that these high rates of imprisonment are leading to safer communities. One study by two professors at Purdue University and Rutgers University has estimated that were we to increase incarceration by another ten percent, the subsequent reduction in crime would be only 0.5%. The state of Florida provides a useful example. Over the past thirteen years, the proportion of prisoners who were incarcerated for committing non-violent crimes rose by 189%. By contrast, the proportion of inmates who committed violent crimes dropped by 28%. For this benefit, Americans are paying dearly – between $18,000 and $50,000 per prisoner per year depending upon the state. The nation is also reaching a point where it simply does not have the capacity for so much incarceration. In 2009, the number of federal inmates rose by 3.4%, and federal prisons are now 60% over capacity.
These figures are not markers of success. Americans do not measure the success of welfare programs by maximizing the number of people who collect welfare checks. Instead success is evaluated by counting how many people are able to get off welfare. Why not apply the same evaluation to prisons?” *see http://www.rightoncrime.com/priority-issues/prisons/
One of Right On Crime’s solutions: Drug Courts, because they have been proven to work. *read more here
Another of their solutions: “Increase the use of custodial supervision alternatives such as probation and parole for nonviolent offenders. In many cases, these programs can also be linked to mandatory drug addiction treatment and mental health counseling that would prevent recidivism. States’ daily prison costs average nearly $79.00 per day, compared to less than $3.50 per day for probation.” *see more at http://www.rightoncrime.com/priority-issues/prisons/
We can accomplish our public safety goals without putting people in prison!!!
However, the vested interests run deep and powerful. Recently, a mental health advocate shared this troubling truth, “When we went to Austin to lobby for mental health dollars, our biggest competition was the private prison lobby. And they were big contributors to legislators from both sides of the aisle.”
Against these powers, we must ALL stand up together, from the right and the left and everywhere in between, and lead the way to a better life for all.