The Dim-Post

April 28, 2013

How journalists could transform public perceptions about criminal justice

Filed under: crime — danylmc @ 8:17 am

Simply report the cost of the corrections system with the same breathlessness that they report the cost of the welfare system. This story is via Stuff, my additions in italics:

The controversial “three strikes” legislation has seen a young man jailed without parole and warned that if he steals another skateboard, hat or cellphone he will spend 14 years behind bars at a minimum cost to the taxpayer of $1.6 million dollars. 

In issuing Elijah Akeem Whaanga, 21, his second strike, Judge Tony Adeane told the Hastings man his two “street muggings” that netted “trophies of minimal value” meant his outlook was now “bleak in the extreme”.

“When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment without parole.” Judge Adeane said.

[Whaanga] committed two aggravated robberies with two separate accomplices.

The first involved taking a skateboard, hat and cigarette lighter from the victim after trying unsuccessfully to remove the victim’s jacket. The second involved Whaanga kicking the victim in the back of his leg and taking his hat and cellphone.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the case showed the law was working. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed, saying the sentence of two-and-a-half years’ jail with no parole at a cost to the taxpayer of $300,000 was “fantastic”.

It’s a nice illustration of how dumb it is for politicians like Judith Collins to showboat with the justice system by legislating away judge’s ability to decide sentences. It doesn’t matter if Whaanga beats someone so badly he sends them to hospital or just tries to pull their jacket off them, the sentence is the same. 14 years.

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53 Comments »

  1. You just don’t get it, do you, Danyl? The purpose of the three strikes law is not to punish the offender, but to protect the public from someone who has no intention of stopping his violent thuggery.

    Comment by macdoctor01 — April 28, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  2. It doesn’t matter if Whaanga beats someone so badly he sends them to hospital or just tries to pull their jacket off them, the sentence is the same. 14 years.

    Sometimes I wonder how these laws might have been designed if the 1815 French book Les Jeux des Jeunes Garçons had described its poison ball game for boys as allowing five attempts for a batter to hit a ball, or nine attempts. I’m sure there are also many other ways we could make our justice system resemble popular American sporting clichés.

    Comment by MikeM — April 28, 2013 @ 8:37 am

  3. I do understand the argument that longer sentences protect the public by keeping the offender out of circulation, but what happens when the pipeline of prison empties them out the other end, undoubtedly more antisocial than when they went in? All other things being equal, all that the longer sentence advocates have actually achieved is a single period of a few years while their policies take effect, and once the first lot of triple-struck offenders come out, we become worse off.

    Of course, rehabilitating offenders also protects the public, and much more permanently, but oddly the SST never considers this.

    Danyl is also right to point out that incarceration costs, that there is an overall calculus to crime and punishment, but we rarely if ever discuss it, except to say that whatever prisoners get is too good.

    Comment by Stephen J — April 28, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  4. The purpose of the three strikes law is not to punish the offender, but to protect the public from someone who has no intention of stopping his violent thuggery.

    So … if at age 24 Whaanga should try to pull a jacket off another person before taking their hat, it is immediately necessary for the protection of the public to incarcerate him until age 38 irrespective of any actuarial evidence about the propensity for offending at a given age?

    Tell me, macdoctor, do you apply the same rigid evidence-free reasoning when treating your patients?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 8:53 am

  5. You just don’t get it, do you, Danyl? The purpose of the three strikes law is not to punish the offender, but to protect the public from someone who has no intention of stopping his violent thuggery.

    If I work hard my entire life I might manage to earn enough to pay $1.6 million dollars in tax. Now, I don’t want someone to run up to me and try and steal my jacket, but I don’t want the government to spend my entire tax contribution for my entire lifetime to prevent that from happening either.

    Comment by danylmc — April 28, 2013 @ 8:58 am

  6. I’m not a fan if the 3 strikes policy but you’ve quoted from the article in a way that minimises this persons danger to the public:

    Whaanga’s offending stretches back to , including burglary, theft, resisting arrest and indecent assault. He served a short prison sentence in early 2010.

    In July that year, he and an accomplice committed aggravated robbery. Whaanga punched the victim in the head multiple times before taking $68. For that he earned his first strike in December 2010 and was sentenced to jail for two years and one month.

    He was freed on parole in April last year. The Parole Board said he had behaved well in prison, where he had resided in the Maori Focus Unit. He had completed a drug programme and a Maori therapeutic programme and was released on a number of conditions for six months.

    Four months later he committed two aggravated robberies with two separate accomplices.

    He needs to face some consequences and since he offended on pare then a sentence without parole may be appropriate.

    And he had a chance a rehabilitation and went straight and committed violent offences.

    Comment by NeilM — April 28, 2013 @ 9:12 am

  7. But if you publicise the cost of three strikes legislation, won’t the lock ‘em up brigade just advocate we retrieve the money from somewhere (because a thief who beats someone up for $68 must be loaded) or at least stop treating them so luxuriously whilst in prison?
    …seize their assets, give them hard labour, stop spoiling them with roast chicken on Christmas Day …

    Comment by MeToo — April 28, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  8. Well the cost of incarcertion would need to be conspared with the costs of the crimes they would have commited.

    Extending the pattern of offence over the years of imprisonmemt would be a reasonable assumption. Court costs, police costs, the costs to the victims etc.

    And how much should we be prepared to pay to prevent someone having their head bashed in with the likely on going head injury problems.

    And in this instance burglary + indecent assault is an indicator for more serious sex offences.

    Comment by NeilM — April 28, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  9. Well the cost of incarcertion would need to be conspared with the costs of the crimes they would have commited.

    Something you would expect was done when the National/Act Government enacted the law. Any evidence it was?

    Extending the pattern of offence over the years of imprisonmemt would be a reasonable assumption.

    Why? Have you actually looked at offending patterns as an individual grows older? Or looked to see what proportion of individuals with a given history of offending at a given age (21) carry on offending in a similar fashion?

    Furthermore, consider this fact pattern. Whaanga comes out of jail in late 2015. Having “learned his lesson” he then leads a blameless life for 15 years. However, at age 40 he suffers a personal trauma … his partner dies in a car crash, or whatever. He goes out, gets drunk, sees a guy with a jacket he likes and so pulls out a screwdiver and threatens to stab him unless he gives it up.

    Worth spending $1.6 million (in 2013 dollars) now locking him up for 14 years?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 10:00 am

  10. You are absolutely correct Danyl. 1.6 million dollars to hold someone alive in a secure state for 14 years is an obscene figure – annualised, it’s more than I earn a year yet I manage to maintain myself in (presumably) slightly more luxurious circumstances.

    Comment by Andrew M — April 28, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  11. “Something you would expect was done when the National/Act Government enacted the law. Any evidence it was?”

    Not how that’s an issue for me and not sure how it shows there is no cost to potential reoffending.

    If you want to argue that the cost of keeping someone in prison does not need to be compared to the cost of them not being on prison because there would be no such cost them you would need as much evidence for that as you are requiring from me.

    Comment by NeilM — April 28, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  12. …seize their assets, give them hard labour, stop spoiling them with roast chicken on Christmas Day …

    Don’t forget the flat screen televisions that must depreciate at $50,000 per viewer per year.

    Comment by MikeM — April 28, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  13. Hold on a minute

    How much is this guy costing the taxpayer when he’s *out* of jail?

    A.

    Comment by antoine — April 28, 2013 @ 10:24 am

  14. It was a government policy. And if they haven’t done this analysis (which I can’t find anywhere), then no-one else will have. So you are suggesting we look at evidence that doesn’t exist.

    But seeing as we’re considering off-setting costs, you also need to take into account the social losses caused by imprisoning for 14 years someone who wouldn’t have reoffended, but instead been a valuable, contributing member of society (i.e. not just how much we spend imprisoning them, but how much we lose by not having them earning). As well as the social losses caused by imprisoning someone for 14 years who otherwise wouldn’t have reoffended, but becomes so institutionalised/habituated into the criminal world because of their long-term imprisonment that they do upon their release.

    Point being, Danyl’s economic analysis may be simplistic. But so is yours.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 10:34 am

  15. For clarity, previous comment (14) was in response to NeilM (at 11)

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  16. Nearly there. Baying mob, greasy apologists and pompous privileged quacks in place. Next step transportation to the Cook Islands for stealing a handkerchief.

    Comment by ak — April 28, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  17. “But seeing as we’re considering off-setting costs, you also need to take into account the social losses caused by imprisoning for 14…”

    I never said that there would not be such potential costs unjust pointed out that there are potential costs to not putting some one in prison when the have a pattern of reoffending.

    What sort if price would put on preventing head injuries or sexual violence? I’d say one head injury could cost the health system a lot of money let alone the cost to the individual.

    As I said I’m not a fan of 3 strikes but minimising the risks and costs of the alternatives is not going to persuade a supporter otherwise.

    Comment by NeilM — April 28, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  18. As I said I’m not a fan of 3 strikes but minimising the risks and costs of the alternatives is not going to persuade a supporter otherwise.

    If societal risk mitigation is genuinely the issue, why not one-strike preventative detention?

    Comment by Gregor W — April 28, 2013 @ 11:14 am

  19. Meh. Mr Whaanga could always try not committing aggravated robbery, that would probably work. If it takes $1.6 mil to keep this fuck from punching people and stealing their stuff, over a lifetime it’s probably money well spent. Doesn’t feel like a scalable solution though, Judith Collins are you listening?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 28, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  20. I never said that there would not be such potential costs unjust pointed out that there are potential costs to not putting some one in prison when the have a pattern of reoffending.

    Fair enough. But the one thing we do know is that, courtesy of the 3 strikes law, it is going to cost us $1.6 million (in 2013 dollars) should Whaanga “being together with any other person or persons, rob any person” of their hat or cell phone at any future point in his life. So that then seems pretty pertinent information to the general public – do you really want a law that mandates we must spend this much keeping this guy in jail for this sort of action, as a wager that by doing so it’ll save society some unspecified costs over the next 14 years?

    So, true that jailing Whaanga for 14 years in the future could actually save society money. But it also could cost it more than $1.6 million. The real issue is that the 3 strike law forces us (via the judiciary) to make that gamble.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  21. If it takes $1.6 mil to keep this fuck from punching people and stealing their stuff, over a lifetime it’s probably money well spent.

    There’s the rub though. Mr Whaanga might spend his entire life hitting people and taking their hats (or worse) and putting him in prison would prevent that. But the statistics show that after he turns 24 his chances of committing a violent crime drop away rapidly. At least a million of that 1.6 million would be spent imprisoning someone with a low likelihood of committing a crime.

    Of course, Mr Whaanga might be an outlier. He might be a very serious threat to the public no matter his age, which is why judges used to have discretion over the length of the sentences they gave, until the ACT Party and Judith Collins took that discretion away.

    Comment by danylmc — April 28, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

  22. The law only applies to violence that would attract 7 years jail max so its a pretty serious offence to start with. In any offence of this seriousness you have a high likihood of people suffering severe injury or mental trauma that requires treatment.. so the costs to victims and society could start with inability to work, ongong medical and counseling costs, family poverty etc.

    Bear in mind that without 3 strikes you could have an offender creating these costs to victims multiple times spanning several decades. During that time he’s in and out of jail and clogging up the Court system until he kills someone.. then he gets a longer sentence.

    Every damn time one of these thugs goes too far and ruins a life the family and friends of the victim react with fury and horror as they learn of the previous convictions and how the victim need not have lost his/her life or been traumatized for life.. we own it to these people and to ourselves to do all we can to put these offenders away for as long as possible.

    FFS, any punch, trip or kick has the potential for serious injury and when combined with theft its just not acceptable to these thugs to carry on their merry ways.

    JC

    Comment by JC — April 28, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  23. “which is why judges used to have discretion over the length of the sentences they gave, until the ACT Party and Judith Collins took that discretion away.”

    No they didn’t. The Court still has the right to reduce the sentence of the second and third crimes if the sentence was “manifestly unjust”.

    JC

    Comment by JC — April 28, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

  24. The law only applies to violence that would attract 7 years jail max so its a pretty serious offence to start with.

    Saying to someone in the street “Give me your skateboard or I’ll punch you”, and then taking the skateboard, is robbery that can put you in jail for 10 years. If you do it with someone else, it is aggravated robbery that can put you in jail for 14 years.

    The Court still has the right to reduce the sentence of the second and third crimes if the sentence was “manifestly unjust”.

    Hang on. Either the 3 strikes law was meant to achieve something (by severely restricting the judges’ discretion as to what to do with a third-strike offender) or it wasn’t (by leaving the judge with the discretion they previously had with regards a third-strike offender). Which was it?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  25. “The real issue is that the 3 strike law forces us (via the judiciary) to make that gamble.”

    It’s likely to be a gamble either way. They might reoffend or they might not. And even I’d one has the sort of statistical forecasting methods it’s going to get it wrong some of the time.

    Personally i think previous offences should be known to the court and sentencing take into account the pattern of offending.

    In this case the person is not being confronted with a long term for a trivial crime but for a pattern of repeat serious offending.

    He may warrant long term. I do agree that that should be the Judges decision.

    Comment by NeilM — April 28, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  26. This is an appalling article:

    1. The headline states that there is anger at the warning. The only people quoted are academics (whose names they can’t even spell correctly – it’s Brookbanks, not Bucklands) and spokespeople for particular viewpoints, all of whom have clearly been contacted by the journalist, and not one of whom expresses any anger whatsoever.

    2. It suggests that theft is a strike offence. It isn’t. This guy can steal as many hats and skateboards as he likes, and he won’t get 14 years in prison (which is the penalty for aggravated robbery), or 10 years in prison (the penalty for robbery), he’ll spend at most 6-and-a-half weeks in prison (automatic release after half of the maximum 3 month prison term for theft under $500).

    It doesn’t matter if Whaanga beats someone so badly he sends them to hospital or just tries to pull their jacket off them, the sentence is the same. 14 years.

    Actually it matters a great deal. Beating someone so badly they end up in hospital might be a 14 year maximum sentence (but probably not), but trying to pull someone’s jacket off them in order to steal it is assault with intent to rob and carries a maximum of 7 years.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 28, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  27. They might reoffend or they might not. And even I’d one has the sort of statistical forecasting methods it’s going to get it wrong some of the time.

    But the whole point of 3 strikes is to mandate a response (“they will reoffend and so must be locked up for the maximum period”) irrespective of any available evidence on the matter one way or another. It’s like being required to bet $1.6 million on the Highlanders winning their next three Super 15 games irrespective of whether they are 8-0 or 0-8 for the season.

    Personally i think previous offences should be known to the court and sentencing take into account the pattern of offending.

    They are and it does. See the Sentencing Act 2002, s.9(1)(j): http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2002/0009/latest/DLM135545.html

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

  28. The Court still has the right to reduce the sentence of the second and third crimes if the sentence was “manifestly unjust”.

    Not true.

    The sentence on a second-strike offence* must, if it is a prison sentence, be without parole. There is no discretion, even if it would be manifestly unjust.

    The sentence on a third-strike offence* must be for the maximum sentence. There is no discretion as to the sentence length. The only discretion (in those manifestly unjust cases) is whether to order a parole period, instead of ordering that it be served without parole.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 28, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

  29. …but trying to pull someone’s jacket off them in order to steal it is assault with intent to rob and carries a maximum of 7 years.

    Not if he does it with an accomplice … then it is a 14 year sentence.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 28, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

  30. If it takes $1.6 mil to keep this fuck from punching people and stealing their stuff, over a lifetime it’s probably money well spent.

    Except it’s not going to be one person, and it’s not going to be $1.6m.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 28, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

  31. The law only applies to violence that would attract 7 years jail max so its a pretty serious offence to start with.

    Nope. Aggravated burglary is a strike offence. Aggravated burglary can be non-violent.

    A change in our criminal procedure laws will occur later in the year, consider the following scenario, which, once it takes effect (it has already passed), will be the law:

    Person A is a drug dealer, selling marijuana joints. They operate on a street corner, and to avoid being seen sell their drugs from behind the fence of an closed car yard. Their accomplice, person B, takes the money, but never touches the drugs. When you pay person B $40, they yell out to person A, “two” and you put your hand through the fence, and person A gives you two joints.

    Police see this, and after you leave the scene, stop you, say they have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of drugs and search you. They find the two joints, and a screwdriver.

    You have committed aggravated burglary, a strike offence carrying a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 28, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  32. Talking about how journalists -could- transform the public discourse by covering what we’d like them to cover seems about as profitable as talking about how the wealthy -could- transform the economy by voluntarily donating all their money to the poorest 50%.

    Comment by Hugh — April 28, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

  33. I think using this case as an example of unjustness in the three strikes law isn’t going to impress many people. This guy is a thug who repeatedly assaults people in public – he is not a sympathetic character the public is going to think victimised.

    Comment by Fentex — April 28, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

  34. Who said he was a sympathetic character? The point is that next time he “assaults people in public” by kicking someone in the back of his legs and taking his cellphone, we’re going to pay $1.6 million keeping him in jail for 14 years. And that’s dumb policy.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 28, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

  35. I don’t think that Judge Adeane should have made a prediction to the defendant about what another Judge’s decision may be, should the defendant end up in court for a third term. The “fourteen years without parole” is not written in stone, surely? More likely it is to be a maximum of five years without parole, and the parole provision is to be heavily debated by the lawyer of the defendant, with the Judge concurring oh-so-reluctantly with the defence counsel (you know, in order to avoid “sensationalised media” that puts Judges and the legal profession and the lawmakers in the Beehive all in a bad light).

    Comment by Dan — April 28, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

  36. Dan. Third strike legislation. What did that do?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — April 28, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

  37. Personally, I’m more than a little dispirited by the response of the Labour Party’s allegedly hard-hitting Justice spokesman on this issue: “Labour’s justice spokesman Andrew Little said there was a concerning increase in random violence and it was clear Whaanga needed treatment.”

    Clearly Labour doesn’t want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — April 28, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  38. “How journalists could transform public perceptions about criminal justice” so that’s the journalist’s role: to change perceptions? Not inform with facts so that intelligent adults could decide for themselves? (And take that $1.6 million and add “+/- $1.2 million”. So much irrelevant cost can be counted in, and important cost can be left out, to suit someone’s point of view.)
    Perhaps journalists are letting their own prejudices in; after all, random violence took the life of one of their own.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 28, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

  39. Yeah, but the point I’m trying to make is that compensations have been made by Judges in order to escape the long sentences for defendants, especially when they’re young or when the possible sentence is ridiculous for the crime committed. Is this not the point that I have tried to express as clearly as I possibly can (you will know that my clear and your clear are two completely different things)? Are these, also, not the points that danyl was making?

    Comment by Dan — April 28, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

  40. Dan – that is simply not how the three strike law works. If this guy gets a third strike, he must be sentenced to the maximum. There is no discretion over the sentence.

    If he is convicted of a further strike offence, what that maximum would be will depend on what the offence is, but if it is the same as his first two strikes, then it will be 14 years.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 28, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

  41. Picking this particular case to argue against 3 strikes reminds me if the anti-death penalty vigils outside US prisons. When one hears of the crimes the condemned committed its hard to think it may be counter productive.

    Minimising the harm done by crime and by this person in particular and then arguing that there is no good in spending money keeping violent repeat offenders behind bars for long periods of time isn’t going to convince a lot if people.

    Comment by NeilM — April 29, 2013 @ 2:09 am

  42. Minimising the harm done by crime and by this person in particular and then arguing that there is no good in spending money keeping violent repeat offenders behind bars for long periods of time isn’t going to convince a lot if people.

    But, of course, no-one has done that on this thread, have they? What has been argued is that the mandated response to similar offending by this person is grossly disproportionate and a waste of societal resources, hence the underlying policy is a bad one (which is something that some of us have argued from the get-go). And as a purported opponent of the three strikes policy, you agree with us. So not quite sure what your point is.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 29, 2013 @ 7:23 am

  43. 1. Apparently he has previously committed “burglary, theft, resisting arrest and indecent assault”.

    2. Is he going to leave other people alone now?

    3. If not, then the only way to protect others is to incarcerate him.

    4. Note that incarceration is a major factor in reducing crime rates. See Steven Levitt’s research on the drop in US crime rates:

    ““The theory linking increased imprisonment to reduced crime works through
    two channels. First, by locking up offenders, they are removed from the streets and unable to commit further crimes while incarcerated. This reduction in crime is
    known as the incapacitation effect. The other reason prisons reduce crime is
    deterrence—the increased threat of punishment induces forward-looking criminals not to commit crimes they otherwise would find attractive. Empirical estimates of the impact of incarceration on crime capture both of these effects.

    The evidence linking increased punishment to lower crime rates is very strong…

    Using an estimate of the elasticity of crime with respect to punishment of 2.30
    for homicide and violent crime and 2.20 for property crime, the increase in
    incarceration over the 1990s can account for a reduction in crime of approximately 12 percent for the first two categories and 8 percent for property crime, or about one-third of the observed decline in crime.

    http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/LevittUnderstandingWhyCrime2004.pdf

    Comment by Bob R — April 29, 2013 @ 11:04 am

  44. Andrew Litlle wants the Sate to “re-wire” this guys brain instead of prison.

    For some reason Bethoven springs to mind.

    It’s an interesting dilemma, how entitled is the State to try and change some ones personality.

    Comment by NeilM — April 29, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  45. 3. If not, then the only way to protect others is to incarcerate him.

    Don’t be silly. The only way to guarantee the protection of others is to execute him.

    Cheaper too.

    In fact, possibly profitable for the state. If you can sell tickets. Perhaps use a lion.

    Comment by RJL — April 29, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  46. @RJL: The only way to guarantee the protection of others is to execute him. Cheaper too.

    Interesting theory. This is probably a biased summary given how fuelled the debate is, and obviously there could be huge differences depending on differing legal systems and administrative decisions that NZ might choose to make, but it was a top result for my lazy web search, and if anything it at least suggests that capital punishment wouldn’t necessarily save money. Referring to US dollars it includes quotes such as:

    “Study Reveals Costs in Maryland: $186 Million for Five Executions”
    “New Jersey taxpayers over the last 23 years have paid more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one”
    [New York] State spent $170 million in 9 years, with no executions
    [In Kansas, a] death penalty case costs through to execution and found that the median death penalty case costs $1.26 million. Non-death penalty cases were counted through to the end of incarceration and were found to have a median cost of $740,000
    Based on the 44 executions Florida has carried out since 1976, that amounts to an approximate cost of $24 million for each execution.
    Each death penalty case in Texas costs taxpayers about $2.3 million

    Cost isn’t usually the point at the centre of capital punishment arguments, though.

    Comment by MikeM — April 29, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

  47. …obviously there could be huge differences depending on differing legal systems and administrative decisions…

    Yes. The reason the systems you quoted are expensive is because they don’t actually execute many (or in some cases any) people. So, the institutional and bureaucratic infra-structure has a poor capital utilization factor.

    If we are executing people for crimes such as “stealing a hat”, I am sure that there would be plentiful savings based on volume.

    Comment by RJL — April 29, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

  48. From the NYT, January 27, 1860:

    “John McCarty, John Geary and Richard Carney, who were indicted for robbing one Francis Williams, one of the ship’s company of the ship Charlotte, of $9 and a pair of boots upon the high seas, pleaded guilty to an assault with intent to rob.

    The punishment affixed to the former offence by the statute is death; to the latter, fine and imprisonment.

    The jury were discharged for the term.”

    Comment by Gregor W — April 29, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

  49. robbing one Francis Williams… of $9 and a pair of boots

    $9 USD in 1860 is worth around $250 USD today and the boots would have cost approx $7 at the time. So all up the three ner-do-well’s were trying to steal about $400 in today’s terms.

    Comment by Phil — April 29, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

  50. $1.6m to put away the Hanover directors would be money well spent. Can’t see much point in offering them rehab either.

    Some people do harm and should pay the penalty they knew full well would be a consequence if their actions .

    Comment by NeilM — April 30, 2013 @ 10:59 am

  51. A nurse friend said it costs $5,000 (from memory) a night to have a patient in their ward. I asked her, if she discharged 2 patients, whether she really would be $10k under budget every night. Then she realised how little was variable cost and how much was an allocation of various fixed costs, most of which she and her staff had no control over.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 30, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  52. Prison is even more expensive with rehabilitation programmes, the expense of justice isn’t a great argument against 3 strikes.

    The Hanover case I think emphasise how in reality justice is about punishment whether we like it or not. There a quite a few people no doubt very unhappy that those directors will most likley spend no time in prison for having turned many lives into misery.

    But, so the argument goes, prison might not make them into better people, they might be more inclined to offend when they come out and all at vast tax payer expense.

    Comment by NeilM — April 30, 2013 @ 8:31 pm


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