12/11: Is arrest expensive, ineffective practice?

By the AJC Editorial Board

Locking ’em up and ditching the key never was a cheap approach to punishing criminals. Nor was it particularly effective, or efficient, it seems.That must change, as a new report makes clear that our criminal corrections model is broken, unaffordable and unsustainable.

That’s proved by the cost of maintaining this dysfunctional system. It has more than doubled since 1990, standing now at more than a $1 billion annual burden to this cash-tight state.

The good news is that remaking our corrections system should save money in the long run. As a bonus, it might help the crime rate fall even further.

Doing a better job of handling criminals is a necessity for reasons other than monetary ones. In the past two decades, Georgia’s prison head count more than doubled, driving us into the unwanted distinction of having one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Meanwhile, our criminal recidivism — backsliding, if you will — has remained unchanged for a decade as prison stints did little to prevent inmates from showing up at the gates time and again.

Read what our editorial board has to say and comment below.

30 comments Add your comment

nelson h

December 10th, 2011
10:31 am

Arrest an ineffective practise. What would you have for an alternative. Let us say that someone is picked up for possession of drugsx He is not arrested, instead he is admonished not to use them any more. That saves the state the cost of prosecution, incarceration , it saves the would be arrestie from backsliding into the penal system because he does not go there in the fiirst place.


December 10th, 2011
10:22 am

In the beginning, these drugs were plants that grew wild. Man made them illegal by adding to them with an illegal process. I have heard many people say that pot helps a woman during that time of the month. People with bad headaches say that pot relieves them. Aches and pains are helped also. Cocaine is eaten by a tribe in a mountainous region of the world, and they have never had an overweight problem. Pot is said to relax the muscles and soothe the body. It is much better, by these acknowledgements, than cigarettes. Why not ban cigarettes, because they are known to kill people. Pot has never been proven to kill those who smoke it. Set up stores where people can go and buy it and pay taxes like any other product. Set the price so low that there would be no need for illegal selling on the street.


December 10th, 2011
9:38 am

The board raised some good points. No one should be punished for these illegal drugs; punishing people for using these arbitrarily illegal drugs is unethical, and it is especially tyrannical to punish anyone for using or selling cannabis. The only crime drug dealers are committing is avoiding taxes (they should pay business taxes, unless it is a small operation) & perhaps selling to kids (the drugs should be sold to adults only, and they should be legal so that people would be carded). The drug prohibitions are extremely destructive to well-being & should end; they are too expensive, too hurtful to individuals & they violate the civil right of personal autonomy. Drug addiction programs are helpful, but making them mandatory is wasteful, especially in cannabis cases (because pot is a health product less addictive than coffee)… hard drug addicts deserve help, but forcing an alcohol addict into rehab after they’re caught in possession of liquor is a stupid move. Addicts should be able to get tax-funded help without fear of reprisal… punishment for drug use does not work anyway; punishment via fines and/or prison and/or jail for drug use or sales is more destructive than the drugs themselves, so it should not happen. Spain, Portugal & Holland have some success with liberal drug policies & in the US, places with medical pot have lower rates of alcohol use & DUI… prohibitions should end for goodness’ sake.


December 10th, 2011
9:13 am

Drugs are victimless crimes? What are you smoking? Look at the families of drug users and what effect it has on them. And look to where the drug users get the money to buy – they ain’t withdrawing it from Suntrust. They are robbing, stealing and defrauding to get a fix.


December 10th, 2011
7:43 am

It’s easy to stay out of jail. Making excuses for those that can’t live within a law-abiding society is a waste of time. We need to build more jails to accommodate the OCCUPY lawless losers.


December 10th, 2011
7:31 am

All comments made are right! However, do everyone know that prisons are a billion dollar business. Why they keeping improving and expanding and building prisons. Bodies make them money and even those who are in prison, not all but some, (thousands)prisoners still try to do the same things they do before they went, it is more of a slower and low key process. Somehow, they manage to do it. I agree that some people are arrested for crimes they did not commit, and justice for them are years out. But the system now really look hard because they pay out billons to those who spend years in prison for crimes they did not commit. That we know, but they still continue to build prisons for the sake of keeping people in them. That willl not change!


December 10th, 2011
12:42 am

Eliminate or dramatically reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Enact “safety valve” sentencing procedures that allow judges broad discretion in sentencing for ALL offenses including the “7 deadly sins” so that sentences may be devised to fit the offense and the offender rather than a “one size fits all” mandatory minimum.

Free Market

December 10th, 2011
12:37 am

End all drug prohibition, laws against gambling, prostitution, and all other consensual crimes. Attempting to legislate morality is both ineffective and wrought with horrible unintended consequences. What we see today associated with the failed war on drugs is the same violence, police and judicial corruption, etc. that we saw during alcohol prohibition. We were at least intelligent enough to end that prohibition and the same should be done for all drugs as well. Personal responsibility must still be maintained, and violent or destructive acts against persons or property cannot be tollerated by those under the influence of whatever.

As for the rest of the system, it is a complete failure because it is based on retribution, rather than restitution. There is a victim in real crimes (that is why drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc. must be made legal). That victim or his/her family is entitled to be made whole again by the criminal. That is no how our justice system works. Today it is all about making the general public feel good about the punishment of someone, enhancing the career of the DA, lining the pockets of the prison system, and justifying more takings of taxes from the citizens. Screw the victim or his/her family.

Everyone from the DA to the judge to the jury, and in most cases even the defense attorney are paid for by the state. How can there ever be justice in a system like that?? The charge is always “the state versus” and yet there is a victim who is never a part of the case. The punishment never involves paying the victim back, making restitution, taking care of their pain and suffering. Instead it is about locking someone away in a system in which rape and violence are prevalent and the victim pays in taxes to house the very person who victimized them. The length of sentence is based on political factors more than any real tie to the pain and suffering they caused the victim.

There have been literally hundreds of books written on the subject, but the more equitable reforms involve establishing a financial compensation or similar and the sentence length determined by when the debt is paid to the victim. The state is not the victim in any crime. They create BS crimes like drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc. to make us feel like they are being victimized or something, but truly these crimes have NO victims. If our system of justice was victim-based, restitution based, and not established as a giant moneymaking scheme for the prison-industrial complex, we might actually see victims made whole again, criminals feeling the true pain and cost of their crimes (and likely even rehabilitation), and the elimination of incentives that encourage arrests, prosecution, and encarceration of innocent individuals (which is far more rampant than anyone wants to admit).


December 9th, 2011
10:50 pm

It would be cheaper for society to keep some of these people locked up. When you add up what we as a society pay for security systems, extra police , etc, keeping them locked up might be cheaper. If I were king, I would use the unused military bases for the people charged with traffic offenses, marijuana offenses, child support etc, and use the real prisons for the thieves and murderers. But, I ain’t king and prisons are a big business .

gary johnson jr

December 9th, 2011
7:39 pm

legalize M.J. and tax it to high heaven….. put the cocaine , crack, and meth dealers in for long term.
that will solve 75% of the problem…..