]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]      BEHIND BARS PROVES CHEAPER       [[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                        By Paul Craig Roberts            (12/2/1988)
                    (Washington Times, 11/8/1988)

[Paul Craig Roberts is one of the very few economists who is always 
                       worth reading - Sysop]

     If Americans want to restore the safety of their homes, streets, 
and workplaces, they will have to build a lot more prisons or else 
adopt the traditional Islamic punishments: death for murderers, 
castration for rapists and loss of hand for theft.  Obviously, we 
would be rid of recidivism in the murder and rape categories, and 
thieves would be out of business after two offenses.
     These severe punishments reflect a social mentality that places a 
high value on the sanctity of society and has low tolerance for anti-
social behavior.  In America, however, where people can no longer even 
bring themselves to spank their children, toleration of criminals 
knows no bounds.  A society like ours that places higher value on the 
criminal's life than on the life of his victim has no alternative but 
to build more jails.
     Cognizant of this fact, the pro-criminal lobby has been working 
overtime trying to convince us that it is too expensive to build 
prisons.  Custodial costs for keeping a felon in a medium-security 
prison are $15,000 a year, plus $5,000 for the amortized cost of his 
cell -- a remarkable sum, considering that the same $20,000 will keep 
a student at Princeton for a year.
     When confronted with the dollar cost of jailing criminals, a 
person can gain an insight into why poorer societies elect to 
exterminate them.  But that's not the conclusion the pro-criminal 
lobby wants us to draw.  Instead, we are supposed to conclude 
that paying $20,000 to keep a criminal off the streets for a year 
is too much of a burden for taxpayers to bear.  So we should 
simply turn them loose.  It would be even cheaper not to bother 
to catch them, but liberals do believe in some "punishment," 
like, say, keeping criminals at home for a week or two while a 
psychiatrist helps them get well.
     Before you elect to take your chances with crime rather than to 
pay taxes for prisons, consider the recent study by Edwin Zedlewski of 
the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice.  A survey 
of 2,190 prison inmates in California, Michigan and Texas revealed 
that the average felon commits 187 crimes a year.  Without counting 
all the costs of each crime, particularly the psychological costs to 
the victims, the study found that the average criminal cost society 
$430,000 a year when loose on the streets.
     This means that every criminal that we lock up at $20,000 a year 
saves us, net, $410,000.  That's a good deal.  If we could get that 
kind of return from the rest of our tax dollars, government would be a 
worthwhile enterprise.
     The study also reports that certainty and severity of punishment 
greatly reduce crime.  Experts estimate that 5,000 additional 
imprisonments in 1985 would have prevented 104,000 serious crimes.  
Unfortunately, our judges are so liberal that a person convicted of a 
serious crime has only one chance in four of being given a prison 
sentence.  Increasingly, punishing crime is just not done -- unless, 
of course, the "criminal" is a drunk driver, a violator of "anti-gun" 
laws, or an abortion protester like Joan Andrews, a Floridian who was 
given five years in prison by Judge William Anderson for pulling the 
plug on an abortion machine.  On the very same day, this great liberal 
judge displayed his humanity by sentencing two accomplices to a murder 
to four years.
     A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, in a test 
of the limits of libertarian permissiveness, presented the case for no 
more prisons by a former corrections officer and now university 
professor, Ms. Kelsey Kauffman.  Ms. Kauffman says we shouldn't lock 
criminals up, because it teaches them to be mean and cruel.  It is 
self-defeating, she says, to put convicted murderers and rapists in 
jail where they learn to use freely available lethal weapons and to 
accept the sexual abuse of others.
     In the states that have legislated progressive prison reforms, the 
inmates literally run the asylum.  Ms. Kauffman never connects the 
anarchy in the prisons with the "sharing of authority with inmates" 
and their participation "in the internal affairs" of "their" prison.  
If weapons can't be kept out of prison cells, how can anti-gun laws 
keep them out of the hands of criminals in the streets?
     The pro-criminal lobby has succeeded in structuring the law to 
ensnare the socially responsible citizen who has a social conscience.  
The latest case occurred recently in New York where a hero, Anthony 
Dixon, rushed down from his second-story apartment in response to the 
screams of a nurse who was being mugged, and for all he knew murdered, 
by two criminals killing time between court appearances.  A bench 
warrant existed for one of them, who had missed a recent court 
appearance in connection with his most recent arrest.
     The liberal policy of leaving criminals free on the streets 
endangers more people than their victims.  Thanks to Mr. Dixon, the 
nurse was saved, but thanks to New York's imbecilic anti-gun law, 
Mr. Dixon faces the prospect of up to seven years in prison for 
possessing the pistol with which he rescued the nurse.  Once in 
prison, thanks to liberal prison reformers, he can be raped, 
sodomized and perhaps murdered -- a fitting reward for a hero.
     Today in New York, Washington, D.C., and other American cities, 
it is no longer possible to come to the defense of a stranger, or even 
your mother, wife or daughter.  Weaponless, you risk being maimed and 
murdered too; armed, you face seven years in prison.

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