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by Peter Moskos

April 15, 2010

A billion here and a billion there...

A study by Daryl Fischer shows that 94 percent of Arizona state inmates are repeat or violent offenders. That "or" is important. "The myth that we're filling our prisons with first-time drug offenders is not true." Well sort of. It is generally true (with some notable exceptions) that people don't do prison time for non-violent drug possession.

But this hardly supports a lock-em-up mentality, which seems to be the goal of the study: "The state is getting its money worth for every tax dollar it spends on the prison system." I find that hard to believe. About 2,000 Arizona men and women are in prison for first-time non-violent offenders. And only 52 percent of state inmates have been convicted of violent offenses. That's nothing to be proud of. Not when the state's correctional budget is one billion dollars.

3 comments:

Jay Livingston said...

So they're not locking up first-time drug offenders. Big deal. They wait till the second or third offense. What I'd like to know is how many of the incarcerated have only drug offenses on their records, how many drugs plus non-violent property crimes like shoplifting. Even if those are felonies, locking up the felon isn't making us a whole lot safer. I would also guess that it's not having much impact on the drug trade.

PCM said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

How does locking up a felon for a non-violent property crime not make us safer? What about burglary? Have you seen the effect a residential burglary has on an elderly couple's quality of life? Maybe they weren't physically attacked, but they will never walk comfortably into their own house again. So much for non-violent.