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Where to Cut the Deficit

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Probably the most frequently made argument nowadays for releasing prisoners early is that we simply don't have the money for the amount of incarceration we undertake.  

The argument is baloney for a variety of reasons the media generally refuse to discuss.  For example, how much do we hear about the expenses saved by people who do not become crime victims because the fellows who would do the victimizing are in the slammer instead?  Another fact discussed in very quiet tones, if at all, is that the amount available for debt reduction from cutting back prison spending is less than a drop in the ocean of red ink, as demonstrated here.  It's a little like insisting that you can save on your yearly car maintenance expenses by not putting a 10-watt bulb in the glove compartment.

Of course the whole thing is a fairy tale anyway.  What this administration does when it wants to fund something it actually cares about (i.e., expanding dependency on government) is borrow to the hilt, or raise taxes, or print it, or all three.  For a true priority item, the money is always there, one way or the other.  All the angst about fiscal constraint can be and is shelved when an administration priority hoves into view.

One such priority, and I use that word advisedly, is deluxe military transportation for the first dog, Bo, who got his own helicopter ride and Secret Service escort to Martha's Vineyard for the President's non-Motel 6 vacation.

Being President is a very hard job, and no one should begrudge Mr. Obama his vacation, including with the family dog. But with money so tight that criminals have to be released   --  so it is said  --   couldn't Bo have just settled for First Class and a bunch of pretty stewardesses?  It's better than I do.

3 Comments

Another reason that emptying prisons will not save nearly the amount of money believed is government benefits.

Will the former inmate receive government subsidized housing?

Will the former inmate receive food stamps or other welfare benefits?

Will the former inmate go on Medicaid or into Obamacare?

Will the former inmate get subsidized alcohol drug rehabilitation?

Will the former inmate get job/vocational assistance?

I do not have numbers, but I suspect that a huge percent of released inmates will receive one or more (or all) of the above programs. Although those calling for prison downsizing take the costs off the prison books, they do not consider that the costs are just being moved to taxpayer funded programs providing the same services outside of prison. It is not saving, it is a shell game.

In addition to the direct societal costs ably outlined above, the indirect costs to the public may be far greater. Self-report studies have established that the common criminal commits anywhere from 12- 144 crimes a year which go undetected. The impact on the individual victims of these additional crimes and on the public order in general are incalculable.

The federal corrections budget is tiny as a percentage of the overall budget.

Here in Calfornia at the state level it is 10% or so. I think raising it a bit combined with a few efficiency changes would be sufficient to resolve any over-crowding (I have never understand this to save my life) issues.

I'd personally build a few medival style citadels (maybe w/ a moat) to house as may prisoners as possible as opposed to having prisoners spread out over the state. This would create a lot of efficienies. If prisoners families have to drive a long aways to visit, i'm not too sympathetic, plus it would be an economical boon to all the Motel 6s and Econolodges which would spring up.

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