Monday, May 17, 2010

Send fewer petty criminals to jails

A student wrote this editorial after being inspired by the story on NPR by Laura Sullivan about poor people serving long jail terms for small crimes because they couldn't raise bail. The original story is at NPR. Another part of Laura Sullivan's story is here. The NPR series concluded with this article.

I don't agree with the way that people are sent to prison for every minor misdemeanor. For instance, we read the article about a homeless person who stole a blanket from the store, and was sent to prison because he couldn't pay the $50 bail fee. The thing that people either don't look at or don't care about, is that it costs way more of the taxpayer's money to keep them in prison than the $15 blanket is worth. I understand if it is a major crime like murder, and things that they are tried for right away, but these small crimes aren't even put onto trial for up to a year after they happen. I think it is crazy how much money we pay to keep people in prison. We pay $9 billion each year on funding prisons. Personally, I would much rather pay for a $15 blanket for a homeless person. Maybe there should be $9 billion towards homelessness prevention, and it would probably even cost less than that.

There was also a situation in Lubbock, TX where a guy stole a $150 television set from Wal-Mart while high on meth and was sent to prison for 75 days. For those days, it cost taxpayers $2,850, let alone all the money for the completely full jail cells. Twenty years ago when people were convicted of a crime, they were released until their hearing and they would just come back. Instead, we built a $110 million mega jail. In my opinion, the solution to this problem is doing pretrial release, where they are sent home with an ankle bracelet, drug testing, counseling, or a social worker. This would come out to about $2 per day instead of $9 per day. If this case was made, I think a lot of people would be for it, except for the bond companies. The bond companies make a living off of all the convicted people paying bonds, so they would be opposed to the idea. However, there are a lot more taxpayers out there that could out rule the bond companies.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

prison sentences are long term. the lubbock dude was sent to jail for 75 days not prison.