An Economical Approach
to Crime and Punishment

The high rate of repeat offenders has led many concerned citizens to support the idea of rehabilitating criminals. Studies have shown that certain rehabilitation programs reduce repeat offending by 10-30% (Cei 65). However, even supporters of rehabilitation will admit that it is not successful with every prisoner, and the programs obviously have no deterrent effect upon anyone who has not been through them. Furthermore, because the effectiveness of a rehabilitation program cannot truly be determined until a prisoner has been returned to society, the prisoners who were not rehabilitated would be released along with those who were.

Antithetically, if we compare a system of imprisonment with a 60% rate of recidivism to one with a 30-50% rate, the choice seems obvious. Yet, there is another issue that must be considered before a decision can be made as to how criminals should be treated, and that is the issue of money. The cost of building and maintaining prisons is a huge drain on the United States economy. The cost of simply housing one prisoner runs over $20,000 a year. In 1996 inmate programs cost approximately $3.28 a day per prisoner. (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Higher education, physical fitness, psychiatric evaluation, and therapy are among the programs already available to many inmates (Bidinotto 78). Initiating further rehabilitation programs would be a questionable practice, given the programs already available and the considerable strain prisons already put upon the economy.

Prisons, while costing billions of dollars each year, are obviously not solving the problem of crime. Rehabilitation programs could possibly help decrease the amount of repeat offense, yet they would do so marginally at best and at unacceptable increase in cost to taxpayers. We cannot continue to rely upon the current prison system to keep us safe from criminals, and adding rehabilitation programs is not practical. Therefore I have developed and will present here a primitive outline of what I believe to be the most reasonable solution.