The director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jeffrey Sedgwick, has contested the Washington Post’s spin in reporting on the 7.2 million Americans under supervision in the justice system. Sedgwick, writing in the Post, said that the story (summarized in Crime & Justice News on June 12), “reported on the financial burden of running correctional systems without mentioning the savings resulting from crimes averted. Experience suggests that shortened sentences and reduced supervision of offenders released from prison carry a higher cost, especially in human terms, than the savings these shortsighted policies generate.”
Sedgwick says that while the number of people under correctional supervision has gone up, crime has gone down. The cost of crimes by former convicts goes beyond prisons, he says, citing a “conservative” estimate that the cost of violent and property crimes in the U.S. is more than $17 billion a year. “Releasing criminals early may help save money in the short term, but not in the long term,” Sedgwick maintains.