Paper: Pols Must Weigh Human Cost In Justice Spending Cuts


In an editorial, the Denver Post says that lawmakers should consider the human cost of “compromising justice” as they consider cuts in the criminal justice system to balance budgets. The paper cited a recent New York Times report that Missouri had begun informing judges about the costs of sentences–for example, that a three-year prison sentence would cost taxpayers $37,000 while probation would cost just $6,770. The Post says, “The idea of putting a specific price tag on justice, and dangling it in front of judges as they mete out punishment, makes us uncomfortable.”

The paper continued, “It’s not because we think it’s wrong to figure out ways of trimming court and prison costs. But we think judges ought to impose appropriate sentences without regard to cost. The financial questions ought to be considered, but that should be the job of legislators, who can adjust penalty statutes to take prison population trends and social mores into account. () There also is a cost, though near impossible to tally, when a criminal who should have been in prison commits another crime. That cost is borne by the victims, to be sure, but it is a cost nonetheless.”

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