One of the things that fascinates me is how deranged Labourites are on the subject of prisons. It seems that they have an inbuilt inability to think logically about the subject. We’ve all seen this seemingly befuddled and infamous passage from the New York Times:
The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.
Other fuzzy thinking is on display in the old trope about the cost of keeping a criminal behind bars. Incidently, I am also fascinated by the left’s constant concern about the extent to which prisons drain the public purse. They are the same people who agititate for Government spending money like a drunken sailor in all other areas (save, sometimes, the defence of the realm). Anyway, the focus here is less on the inconsistency and more on the propensity for illogical thought.
Witness today’s sentimental ravings by EDDIE from The Standard:
At $100,000 per year per prisoner, this is a hellishly expensive exercise in counter-productivity.
A smart society would instead invest that $100,000 a year into getting young people into work with job creation programmes and on building more liveable communities that don’t facilitate crime.
The stats don’t lie: unemployment is the driving factor behind a hell of a lot of crime – the numbers suggest that if you could eliminate unemployment 20% of crime would go with it. Eliminate poverty in general and I’m sure that number would plunge even further.
Instead, we’re imprisoning exponentially more people at massive cost, and we know it just makes things worse.
Why are we throwing away so much money and so many lives?
Let’s leave aside for the time being the bald and wholly unsupported assertions as to the cost of imprisoning someone and the non-existent correlation between crime and unemployment.
The unasked but obvious question is, of course, “What is the cost of not imprisoning criminals?”
In Britain, where the “alternatives to incarceration” vogue has led to only 7 percent of convicted criminals being put behind bars, the annual cost of the prison system has been estimated at just under 2 billion pounds sterling. Meanwhile, the annual financial cost alone of crimes committed against the public has been an estimated 60 billion pounds sterling.
In the United States, the cost of incarcerating a criminal has been estimated as being $10,000 a year less than the cost of turning him loose.
In all these calculations, we are leaving out the costs of violence, intimidation and the fears that people have for the safety of themselves and their children, not to mention the sense of helplessness and outrage when society refuses to pay as much attention to innocent victims as it lavishes on the criminals who victimize them.