Thursday, June 08, 2006
Where might we find the money to fix our broken energy systems?
High Cost of Prisons Not Paying Off, Report Finds
The U.S. spends more than any other nation -- $60 billion a year -- to house inmates, but sees little good as a result, a bipartisan panel says.
By Jenifer Warren, Times Staff Writer
June 8, 2006
SACRAMENTO — Americans spend $60 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million people — exceeding any other nation — but receive a dismal return on the investment, according to a report to be released today by a commission urging greater public scrutiny of what goes on behind bars.
The report, "Confronting Confinement," says legislators have passed get-tough laws that have packed the nation's jails and prisons to overflowing with convicts, most of them poor and uneducated. However, politicians have done little to help inmates emerge as better citizens upon release.
The consequences of that failure include financial strain on states, public health threats from parolees with communicable diseases, and a cycle of crime and victimization driven by a recidivism rate of more than 60%, the report says.
"If these were public schools or publicly traded corporations, we'd shut them down," said Alexander Busansky, executive director of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, established by a private think tank in New York. Rather, the commission said, Americans view prisons with detachment or futility, growing interested when a riot makes the news and then looking away, "hoping the troubles inside the walls will not affect us."
With 20 members representing diverse perspectives, the bipartisan panel urges Americans to ignore the costs of incarceration no longer. Launched in early 2005 amid what panelists called "accumulating doubts about the effectiveness and morality of our country's approach to confinement," the commission will deliver its findings to a Senate subcommittee in Washington today.
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The report can be found at http://www.prisoncommission.org .