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

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…..


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 .

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 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.


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
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
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
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
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.

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.

Hillbilly D

December 10th, 2011
10:44 am

You could turn out all the non-violent offenders but that would be sending the message that it’s ok to steal, as long as you don’t hurt anybody.

In my area, the vast majority of the crime is meth related. People on meth can’t usually hold down a job and they have to get the money to buy it somewhere, so they steal.

Most of the people that I know personally, who’ve built time, and I don’t mean 30 days in the county jail, I mean 10-20 years at a stretch, just don’t care and they have no fear of going to prison. That’s part of the problem.


December 10th, 2011
11:11 am

Hillbilly D is correct. The people I have know, that have been in prison, don’t fear going back. Prison seems to be just a finishing school for criminals. If drugs were legalized, they would continue to be addictive . People would steal and kill to get the drugs or the money to buy the, People use other countries as an example of what we should do. This is silly. Some monarchies execute drug users. That cut’s down on their drug problem, but we don’t want to do that either.


December 10th, 2011
1:13 pm

chiatt – yes, using drugs is a victimless crime. Selling drugs is a victimless crime, as is manufacturing drugs. Assuming all actions related to these activities do not involve force, fraud or similar, there is no victim. What you speak of is a slippery slope. Horrific debt can destroy a family. Alcohol abuse can destroy a family. Infidelity can destroy a family. But in no case are the individuals impacted physically harmed and the financial issues are the result of the shared financial accountability that comes with the marriage contract. Are we to use this criteria and make virtually all activities illegal as they MAY harm someone emotionally or financially because of their relationship with another? Of course not. Such logic is specious when it is applied to drugs as well.

And as for the robbing and stealing, once again logic is not being applied. Currently with the proper license, you can purchase cocaine, methamphetamine, herion, and dozens of other illegal drugs from several chemical companies. They are produced in pure form for use in control materials needed for drug testing of blood and urine samples. Even with all of the DEA regulations these drugs cost about 1/20 of what they do on the black market. This is because drug prohibition has driven up their costs and the profits for dealers. If they were legal and even sold through pharmacies or similar, their cost would plummet. They are all very cheap to produce. Marijuana would like be grown by users and cost virtually nothing relative to today’s costs.

Yes, all of the crime that you associate with drug use is really a consequence of a failed government policy.

Am I saying that nobody on drugs commits violence against another or their property? Of course not. In fact, more violence is committed under the influence of alcohol than drugs – way more. And we hold these people accountable for their actions as should everyone.

Even in the case of theft, etc. that was mentioned. This is a property crime against someone. You don’t let people off for that. There is in fact a true victim.

When we head on down the slippery slop of “victimhood” as being applied to anyone whose feelings are hurt, whose emotions are impacted, etc. as a justification for making something illegal, then we run the risk of criminalizing speach (which of course we already have), and thousands of other actions that do not involve the direct injury to another or their property.

It is a scary argument to make, and most folks are waking up to the reality that our reliance on such logic has undermined our values and our society.


December 10th, 2011
4:09 pm

Yes, incarceration turns marginal delinquents into serious criminals, while some treatment programs are effective for that class of offender. But two points:

1) I had a problem with alcohol, a legal drug. The law worked about right. I got into trouble not for mere possession, but only when my life became disorderly. The treatment program worked- eventually. Addictions are notoriously hard to cure. But I never would have admitted my problem or submitted to treatment without the threat of more serious legal consequences.

2) The most effective treatment, without serious competition, is Christianity. It addresses the root cause, the sin nature in every man. But somehow, in this country whose founding documents represent the culmination of 200 years of Puritan political thought, we have reached the absurd point where Christian ministries are being excluded from our public square.

The great psychiatrist Karl Jung said that once the patterns of addiction become established in the parts of the brain that conrol the subconscious, cure is impossible. The only options are 24-hour-per-day guard, or lifetime incarceration. But sometimes he would observe a spontaneous spiritual transformation, which would instantly set the victim free from addiction. To bring a person to that experience is the essence of Christianity. It is the solution to everything, because it is the only religion or philosophy that is consistent with all that we know to be true about God, man, and the universe. More importantly, it is the only religion that has the real supernatural power to make its remedy effective.


December 10th, 2011
5:55 pm

The most important consequence of arrest and incarceration, the one the left never likes to acknowledge, is that it removes criminals – if only temporarily – from society. And capital punishment brings the additional benefit that the killer will NEVER have the opportunity to do it again.


December 10th, 2011
6:04 pm

hey duke, i like your style…

i worked in a ’supermax’ with some of the most violent, vicious and famed felons for several years. suddenly, i had to make a decision and hasty exit to maintain my sanity and family. i had to find another source of sustainence and found it by putting God first.

individuals on the ‘outside’ of the fence are no different than people behind bars. a couple of fellow officers sadly committed suicide, one high level supervisor killed someone. we’re all the same at heart.

every aspect, segment of society, nation and world is world is on the brink of self collapse, self disaster, self destruction for failure to abide in God’s law. it’s happening because we’ve distanced ourselves and believing in everything but God… so many things that obviously are getting ourselves into deeper despair

many of these blogs continually address the dire straits we face and remedies we seek, knowing the outcome grows continually bleak, we are way beyond optimism and the possiblity of things being resolved in any human capacity. this is a God only resolution, something way above our understanding and ability. it is possible. it’s a matter of hearts being where God requires and expects. the changes we all long for can and will only be accomplished by changes in our hearts and attitudes turning towards God. its not my opinion, that is what is written

peace to all this Christmas, it can be the best gift we’ve ever had if we receive it.


December 11th, 2011
9:25 am

The first step to rescuing the United States from drowning in corrections related red ink is to take ALL criminality off so called narcotics- particularly marijuana- AKA ganja, weed, pot, ishens, grass, kali, Tom-P, Korn, Marley, etc. The abuse of narcotics must become a health/social issue. The government’s drug criminal industry must be dismantled, since it is a net cost center for the national economy.

There is no one refusing to use illegal narcotics, because of the “illegal” classification. This means that those who would start because these substances became legal would be minimal or even negligible. We are using too much of our resources to pursue these types of “criminals” and with little tangible results.

Continuing to pursue drug criminals is sheer madness. Two bit weed dealers getting four and five years and child abusers are walking around in suit and tie….go figure.

Free Market

December 11th, 2011
10:45 am

I have to say I find it particularly disgusting when I read folks who have kicked drug or alcohol habits saying that the threat of incarceration helped make the difference in getting them clean and sober. I mean I understand why the rehab folks say these kinds of things – they benefit tremendously from court imposed rehab, etc. so why would they take a stand in favor of freedom and the free market?

Look, I know that addiction is a serious issue. Using drugs, alcohol, food, sex, whatever in a manner than causes you harm and impacts others around you is a serious matter than needs to be addressed. BUT WHY SHOULD MY TAXES AND MY FREEDOMS BE THREATENED OR DESTROYED BECAUSE YOU CAN’T GET IT TOGETHER WITHOUT THE THREAT OF PRISON????

Your selfishness is destroying the lives of literally millions of individuals all over this country. There are plenty of folks who use drugs recreationally, medicinally, etc. with no problems in their lives (and really isn’t it up to them to determine that?) whose lives and families have been destroyed by the war on drugs. Look, if you have a problem, then MAN UP and get help. Others should not have to go to prison, face rape, loss of their children, loss of their families, etc. just because you haven’t hit rock bottom yet and need yet another parent threatening to take away your freedom if you don’t get straight. Just look at how insensitive and selfish that position is.

Personal responsibility can only be appreciated when it actually comes from you, not from outside threats from the parent figure masquerading as the government. If you want to be locked away while you get sober, then pay your own way, find a rehab that will do that for you, or go to some other country and violate their laws. I already pay enough in taxes and lost freedom for the government we have.


December 11th, 2011
11:15 am

The most important consequence of arrest and incarceration, the one the left never likes to acknowledge, is that it removes criminals – if only temporarily – from society.

…and places them in an environment where they learn to be vicious, because the weak guys end up as girlfriends. For an added bonus, they can learn how to be really, really good criminals. Now you are releasing an unemployable ex-con onto the streets with an advanced degree in mayhem.

Brilliant, Shekema. Try rubbing a couple of brain cells together sometime. I’m sure the leftist thoughts would scare the pants off of you, though.

mountain man

December 11th, 2011
11:56 am

Aquagirl – “…and places them in an environment where they learn to be vicious, because the weak guys end up as girlfriends. For an added bonus, they can learn how to be really, really good criminals. Now you are releasing an unemployable ex-con onto the streets with an advanced degree in mayhem”

So let’s just keep doing what we are doing now – just let them all go with no meaningful time, and they repeat the crime as soon as they get out.See posts about the crime at Tech – one perp had been arrested and convicted 10 times – with only a month or two of “jail” (read- free rooom and board) in between his arrests. And how many times did he get away with his crimes in between those?


December 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

So let’s just keep doing what we are doing now

No, let’s not. This may come as a shock, but there’s an opinion right there above your comments that (gasp!) suggests doing things differently. Most of us read those words. But then most of us aren’t simply drive-by trolls, looking for someone, anyone to listen to our diatribe on libs or leftists or whatever you call the imaginary bug up your bum.

Let me know if you need help with the big words.

mountain man

December 11th, 2011
12:28 pm

Maybe I am missing something, Aquagirl, but I don’t see anything about how to do things differently. A lot of other people on this post earlier posts just say “decriminalize all drugs and get the druggies out of the system”. I would support that except for the fact that we haven’t dealt with our legal drug – alcohol- very well. I deal in health and safety and companies would have to deal with marijuana as well as alcohol if it were legalized


December 11th, 2011
12:52 pm

I do not believe that anyone is saying that we should remove sanctions from negative behaviors that are initiated or accelerated under the influence of drugs or alcohol…ie drunk driving, domestic violence, unsafe or violent behavior in the workplace. In fact under a decriminalization/legalization regime those sanctions should be harder…almost vicious.

However, the notion that we are going to criminalize our way out of drug abuse and drug abuse related crimes is a pipe dream, and we should just say no.

Ken P

December 11th, 2011
4:50 pm

I’ve read most of the posts, and no one should be able to say just make something illegal, legal! Drug use and abuse would certainly continue and contribute to highway deaths, crime to make money to “legally” buy the addictive substance, and many other responsibilities that DO HAVE VICTIMS!

Those truly non-violent offenders should be kept together and out of the population with violent offenders. And the corruption should be flushed out of the government involved here, in the administration and control of the prisons! Gangs should be destroyed in prison, by things like moving prisoners regularly, and using them in productive endeavors like farming, manufacturing, etc. They should be worked hard and made productive, so that at least they won’t be a drag on our economy if the DO return.

Pay the guards enough that they aren’t so readily enticed into corruption, and make the sentences legitimate. And use common sense so that if a gang has committed murder, for instance, any tattooed member of that gang should be incarcerated for an offense associated with their gang’s illegal action!

And WE MUST stop accepting criminals from the ghetto of Mexico, which are already desperate and hardened when they come here, repeatedly if necessary. This is yet another example of the foolish failure of that politically correct notion of DIVERSITY has created a population with irreconcilable differences.


December 11th, 2011
8:51 pm

I actually got assigned to a jury on a cocaine possession case. Happily, the parties settled the day of trial, but it made me aware of the mandatory sentencing laws, which begin at something like FIVE YEARS. So, I never found out whether this was about a really bad guy for whom they couldn’t catch him on something more serious, or about some poor schnook who got caught at a local roadblock. And I probably wasn’t going to find out which was which as a juror. And the judge, who WOULD know which was which, would be unable to adjust sentencing accordingly. So a bad guy would get his just reward, if convicted. A schnook might get confronted with his mistaken ways and swear off drugs altogether (kind of a fantasy, huh?), but would have to wait quite a while to exercise his insight. I think we should admit that we don’t know yet how to handle addiction. Or, for that matter, casual use. I think our confusion about this leads to massive injustice, of which we all are a part, and massive corruption, of which we all are a part as well.

Free Market

December 11th, 2011
9:10 pm

Why should no one be able to say make something illegal – legal??? Where do you get off??

Prior to the early part of the 20th century, every drug possible was LEGAL – yes, do some history research. The reasons why hemp/marijuana became legal have more to do with politics, big money, oil/paper/cotton/puritanism reasons than anything having to do with safety or similar. The same with opium, cocaine, heroin, etc.

Nobody said anything about making stealing for drug money legal, nor killing anyone while under the influence, or any other actual crime with a victim. Your logic seems to imply that so long as another crime that actually does involve a victim or property CAN occur as a result of a non-violent act than that act must remain illegal. Where do we draw the line? So everything that is illegal right now MUST remain illegal just because YOU say so?? What about gambling? Can the state never legalize gambling because people have been killed over gambling disputes in the past? And what about Sunday alcohol sales? Must they remain illegal too as some people have harmed others while under the influence (on a sunday no less)?

In the history of the US, drugs have been legal MORE than they have been illegal. Again, personal responsibility must be demanded, and penalties should be harsh for harming another or their property (WHETHER YOU ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OR NOT)!

How hard is that to understand? What is your problem with Freedom???


Free Market

December 11th, 2011
9:12 pm

Forgive me, I meant to say the reasons why hemp/marijuana became ILLEGAL.

For an outstanding history of this unbelievable conspiracy (yes, there is absolutely no other word for it), read Jack Herrer’s “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. You will be shocked by the behavior of the scum that infested our government in the early years of the 20th century (or maybe not).


December 12th, 2011
7:53 am

Personal attacks are neither helpful nor persuasive. Most of us gave those up after high school. The notion that the left has some monopoly on “thought” is particuarly laughable.

If the current system is broken, I have not heard a solution other than decriminalizing crime? Are alternatives to incarceration effective or is the prision system just a reflection of the more pervasive collapse of segments of our society?


December 12th, 2011
10:56 pm

Up front, I’m a big time conservative. I’ve also been involved with GDC since Jimmy Carter was governor. I’ve work in a prison and in a community center. Here’s my truth, the system is broke. We aren’t fixing anything except building very expensive prisons. My daughter has been a involved in the drug court which actually work, at least better than prisons do. When I got my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, I had a professor who said we put two kinds of people in jail, those we are mad at and those we’re afraid of. Let’s find a better way to deal with those we are mad at. It’s not politics, it’s the best way to spend the limited resources that we have.

Janet Goree

December 12th, 2011
11:12 pm

I feel a glimmer a hope reading this. My granddaughters murderer recieved probation yet my son was sentenced to a thirty year mandatory minimum sentence for a drug crime! How does this make sense? My son struglled with addiction since the age of fifteen. Instead of diversion programs he was locked up which left more unmarketable than ever. Of course they re-offend! WHat else can they do?