Criminologists Sherman, Nagin Urge Shifting Prison Spending to Police


Money saved by reducing the number of Americans in prison should be spent on better police monitoring of offenders in the community, contends criminologist Lawrence Sherman of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University. Speaking this week at the annual Jerry Lee Crime Prevention Symposium in Washington, D.C., Sherman argued that in an era in which police employment is threatened by government budget cuts, steps should be taken to ensure that more officers are “back out on the streets, where the criminals are.”

Sherman’s version of “justice reinvestment” differs from that advocated by some others. He believes the idea of shifting excess corrections spending to economic development of neighborhoods has not succeeded in crime reductions. In Sherman’s view, consistent police officer contact with known offenders can help deter future criminality. There is no need for the “one size fits all [practice] that everyone must be prosecuted,'” he said. Criminologist Daniel Nagin of Carnegie Mellon University, another symposium speaker, also called for taking money spent on incarceration and spending it on police. Nagin said studies have shown “that the marginal deterrent effect of increasing already lengthy sentences is modest at best,” whereas police presence in communities does deter crime.

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