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June 10, 2010

New CEPR report on "The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration"

Incarceration1-savings I am intrigued and pleased to learn that the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has released here a new report titled "The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration." The full report is available at this link, and here is how CEPR describes its findings:

The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion.

These cost savings could be realized through a reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of exclusively non-violent offenders, who now make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population. A review of the extensive research on incarceration and crime suggests that these savings could be achieved without any appreciable deterioration in public safety.

This CEPR press release adds these comments and details about the report:

"State and local governments are under tremendous fiscal pressure,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist at CEPR and lead author of the report. “Shifting just half of the non-violent offenders from prison and jail to probation and parole could save state and local governments $15 billion per year."

The study points out that some of the main causes of the rise in incarceration rates are policies such as "mandatory minimums" and "three strikes" laws that often lead to long prison terms for non-violent offenders. Earlier research on the connection between crime and incarceration suggests that state and local governments could shift non-violent offenders from jail and prison to probation and parole with little or no deterioration in public safety.

Among the key findings are:

  • In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men were in prison or jail
  • Non-violent offenders make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population; non-violent drug offenders account for one-fourth of all offenders behind bars
  • The total number of violent crimes in the United States was only about three percent higher in 2008 than it was in 1980. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased by 33 percent while the prison and jail population skyrocketed by more than 350 percent.

June 10, 2010 at 08:21 AM | Permalink


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Drug dealers, non-violent, as in Mexican cartels, as in every organized drug gang in every city? The left is amazing.

The death penalty is too expensive. Prison is too expensive. What is the alternative? Supervision by massive numbers of government workers. How much would the left wing cult criminals here pay to not get jacked? What the value of 50 Index felonies not done by each of these birds? What is the cost of health care of 50 crime victims not injured each year? When one of the criminals they love moves to your block, what discount would motivate a buyer to buy your house?

These are not imbeciles, but self-dealing left wing liars. Kissinger liars, by omission. (Why didn't you tell the Senate committee about the illegal bombing of Cambodia? They didn't ask me about it.)

A blog is not part of professor duty. However, balance enhances the credibility of the academic, and better serves the students. For every one of these propaganda tracts, another should be posted from the mainstream.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 10, 2010 9:13:40 AM

So your argument is that if we release NON-VIOLENT criminals, as in criminals that didn't use violence (unlike the aforementioned Mexican cartels), they will commit violent crimes? Yes, I'm sure that pothead is just waiting to go on a killing spree, assuming he can find his pants. Much better to keep him in prison where he will live for decades in a climate of violence and drugs and be forced become violent and anti-authoritarian to survive.

And the cost for putting someone on parole/probation is a small fraction of the costs of incarceration. You don't need one PO per parolee. The ratio is much smaller than in prison, and you don't have to pay for food/housing/etc. Heck, they even have to hold down a job and pay taxes.

But, of course, you must be right. These people obviously are putting out a well-researched report on incarceration so they don't have to ask you about Cambodia.

Posted by: NickS | Jun 10, 2010 2:56:17 PM

I will happily go along with cutting incarceration rates to the levels we had in 1993 if, simultaneously, we cut the amount spent on entitlement programs to that year's levels. And I guarantee you that I will save the federal Treasury massively more money.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 10, 2010 5:57:10 PM

Nick: The charge is non-violent. The criminal may be ultra-violent. The lawyer charge is almost irrelevant to real life. In over 95% of cases, it results from a plea deal, and may be completely unrelated to the behavior that caused the arrest. The act was rape, pled down to possession of a joint. You just don't know.

There are almost no consumers of marijuana in prison. Most are part of organized crime.

Rebutting the left is a tiring, nearly full time job. My frustration is that they are intelligent, but just big liars. The remedy for a big liar is not endless rebuttal. They are protecting their economic interests. Again, with the Kissinger lies. The cost is not parole vs. prison cell. It is massive trauma care costs, family violence cost, drops in real estate value costs, police costs, lawyer costs, special ed costs for the spawn of the now rapidly breeding free range criminal, on and on. Each criminal is a mini natural disaster costing $millions a year in damages and governmental costs.

No, the remedy is not endless rebuttal in the face of a torrent of lies. It is an ass kicking by the public. To deter the thievin', lyin' lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 10, 2010 6:27:37 PM

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