Costs of Long Prison Terms

Sociologists have conducted a lot of research on the personal and social costs of long prison terms. As this article in The New York Times argues, the costs of long prison terms for people who commit crimes as a juvenile or in their 20s may outweigh the benefits to society. The article also raises the question of an in-equitable distribution of the costs of long prison terms.

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5 Responses to Costs of Long Prison Terms

  1. Brian Cannon says:

    Determining personal and social costs of long term incarceration brings about the ethical issue of whether or not the benefits of keeping someone in prison for a long period of time outweighs its costs. The costs are easy to measure in terms of currency; however, the difficultly with this topic is trying to quantify the benefits society receives as a result of a criminal being incarcerated. Obviously, the safety of society is a factor, but there are external factors of long term imprisonment. For example, the families of the incarcerated are negatively affected financially and emotionally. When a parent is incarcerated, providing children with education, health, and adequate housing becomes more difficult, which can lead to a lower quality of life. Furthermore, a criminal may have a ‘change of heart’ after a few years in prison and may not necessarily be a threat to society anymore, but will still be confined to a jail cell.
    How long does someone need to stay in jail in order to not be a liability to society? This question is difficult to answer and is the reason why some are challenging the benefits of long term incarceration.

  2. Jessica S says:

    One point that struck me in this article was how the prison terms of many young offenders in their teens and twenties kept them in prison for a very long time, for upwards of 20 years. By this age, they are considered to be past the “prime” age for crime. This cost to the prisoners becomes very high, especially when factors like families of the incarcerated are taken into account. Also, the cost of longer prison sentences to society is also very high, since prisons are run with government funds, those funds from from the taxpayer. I feel that if a better sentencing system could be implemented, cost both to society and the incarcerated could be greatly reduced.

  3. Nicole R. says:

    Many places around the United States are having overcrowding troubles with prisons and having past capacity numbers of inmates. To keep someone in prison for a year was estimated to be a little over $31,300 and in some states it can be upward of $50,000. This is a definite problem because it is the taxpayers’ money that is being used to keep each of these individuals in jail. I think this is an important issue we need to address and also can tie in the issue of the death penalty. I believe that there does need to be some sort of punishment and I think at such young ages a short stint in prison is not going to make someone learn their lesson, but that 20 years is pretty extensive for assault and selling drugs. I never thought that more people incarcerated could create more crime, but the social costs of tearing families apart and not allowing for a proper support structure for children growing up only makes this problem larger than it already is. I think that we could definitely use an update in policy for our sentencing periods.

  4. gauthieb says:

    With the national debt reaching peak highs and over-crowding within prisons combined with a recession hitting has me questioning the benefits of holding men and women in correctional facilities for years upon years. The tax payers and non criminals are paying economically for a small deviant group’s behavior, while families and loved ones suffer emotionally. While there is an obvious benefit to protecting citizens from criminals, I question some of the sentencing of less dangerous or violent criminals. Potentially a policy change in which alternative means are available the US could create more jobs, limit overcrowding and ideally cut some of the budget.

  5. boswelli says:

    To me, this article is intriguing as well as saddening. Prison has become the ‘norm’ for young African-American males between their 20’s and 30’s. I feel as though they feed into this stereotype rather than trying to break this horrible cycle. Poverty stricken areas (the neighborhoods of many African-American families) have become cites for drug dealing/usage and prostitution. These places are also crime hot-spots. As a result, law enforcement officers often try to keep a close eye on these neighborhoods. This , in part, leads to more and more black males and females getting incarcerated. Although I don’t have a solution to this problem, I feel as though African-Americans must come together as one and reflect on how we are perceived by those around us in order for us to attain the desire to change.

    That’s all I have for this article, I thought it was very, very interesting.

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