Does Jail Hurt the most for nonviolent offenses like drug charges, the offender or the taxpayers?

I’m going to slice this up financially — one of the easiest ways to analyze it.

Here are some fun facts that we’ll need for a few quick calculations:

And a few more:

Now… Let’s do a back of the envelope style computation.

nonviolent offenses like drug charges, the offender or the taxpayers?

2,220,300 people locked up
$34,770 per year to imprison them
$77,199,831,000 per year

4,751,400 people on supervision after prison
$4,392 per year to supervise them
$20,868,148,800 per year

That’s a total of $98,067,979,800 per year.

To put that into perspective, that’s about $300 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. It amounts to about one-seventh of our national deficit. I haven’t included the costs of law enforcement, the judiciary, or the hidden costs, such as the lost tax revenue from turning citizens into inmates or the costs to future generations for children who lose a parent. My wild-ass-guess is that the total real cost is about double the number stated above.

So, let’s say $600 for every American.

The destruction of the person incarcerated in total. It’s a complete loss. Everything they’ve ever worked for is… just gone.

So, the damage to the individual is relatively greater. But we shouldn’t discount the damage to society. Imagine what investments in infrastructure and education we could make with some $200 billion dollars EVERY YEAR.

Jail punishes the offender’s family most of all. The drug offender has already made a choice, jail is part of the game. Society pays in bulk, individual cases don’t really stand out.

As a taxpayer, it may hurt me to take more money out of my wallet to pay taxes but to me, that certainly beats going to jail. To me the idea of going to jail for any reason is terrifying and watching shows about what it is like in jail hasn’t helped.


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