Knowing the costs– Applied Common Sense

Interesting article in the NY Times about costs of the criminal justice system. Missouri has taken the radical step of informing judges the cost of various sentence options:

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.

One presumes somewhere in the system is a mechanism to look at value and efficacy!?

“One of the flaws in the operation of our criminal justice system is not only the failure to be attentive to cost but an arrogance that somehow you can never put a price on justice. Long missing has been a sober realization that even if we get significant benefits from incarceration, that comes at a significant cost.”

Where have I heard something like this before?

“No one can put a price tag on being a victim,” said Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association.

What’s fascinating is the parallel issue of cost in medicine. In medicine, prices are rarely revealed and considered in the treatment decision. As a matter of fact, we (patients, providers, and payers) are price insensitive when treating serious medical problems and will readily accept very costly approaches that have little efficacy.

Medicynical Note: Patients aren’t informed, have infinite expectations of treatment and cure, and insurers pay whatever is demanded. As a result we are going bankrupt, individually and as a nation.


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