Sunday, September 19, 2010
Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences
September 18, 2010
When judges here sentence convicted criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the State of Missouri.
For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.
Legal experts say no other state systematically provides such information to judges, a practice put into effect here last month by the state’s sentencing advisory commission, an appointed board that offers guidance on criminal sentencing.
The practice has touched off a sharp debate. It has been lauded nationally by a disparate group of defense lawyers and fiscal conservatives, who consider it an overdue tool that will force judges to ponder alternatives to prison more seriously.
But critics — prosecutors especially — dismiss the idea as unseemly. They say that the cost of punishment is an irrelevant consideration when deciding a criminal’s fate and that there is a risk of overlooking the larger social costs of crime.
Posted by Yulie Foka at 8:39 PM