The Cost of Prison Sentences

In Missouri a judge is now told the cost of the sentence he proposes to pass.   The New York Times lists the kind of figures  a judge is given:

“a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690”.

Clearly they spend even less on a prisoner in Missouri than in England and Wales (here the cost is £45,000 a year or £900 a week).

Second degree robbery is robbing someone with intimidation but without a weapon.   The sentence here would probably be similar and if served in full would cost £225,000, or £135,000 if the prisoner got out after three years.

Apparently the information is having a big impact on imprisonment rates in Missouri, as it should.   In the absence of clear evidence that a prison sentence is necessary for public protection or is capable of making a difference no public servant would think of spending this kind of money just to send a political message.

It also puts the cost of proper representation (the fee to a solicitor for preparing a 3 day robbery trial in the Crown Court dropped in 2008 to a laughable £1700) into its proper context.   One wrongful conviction in in 100 cases is uneconomic.  Its also a human tragedy.

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