The price of justice in Phoenix’ Maricopa County is $734 million, and growing fast, says the Arizona Republic.
County criminal-justice spending has more than doubled over the past decade, soaring to 35 percent of the budget and eating up money for public health, parks, recreation, and transportation. The burgeoning world of judges and bureaucrats, victims and criminals, defense attorneys and prosecutors now costs double what it did in 1997 – $204 per county resident, up from $93. “We’re not going to be able to build anywhere as much of the (county’s) infrastructure needs as we thought we would be able to because a percentage of it is being sucked up into the criminal-justice system,” said Supervisor Don Stapley. “Public safety is our highest priority. We don’t have any choice.”
More criminal cases are going to trial. Costs of defending the poor have hit an all-time high. High methamphetamine use has driven up crime. Health costs for jail inmates are soaring. Immigration, legal and illegal, strains the system. The county will spend $334 million on 32 new criminal courtrooms. It is difficult to compare Maricopa’s spending with other U.S. counties because county functions, services and policies differ vastly. It’s one of the major challenges facing county governments, said Donald Murray of the National Association of Counties: “Maricopa County is a booming county, and you would expect to see a growth in criminal justice.”