This evening, I read this story in one of the local papers and thought how great it was to see a defense attorney making a compelling argument in support of a lesser sentence for his client. The defendant is a shoplifter, dubbed the Super Shoplifter for his long, long history of shoplifting. He is already sentenced to 11 or so years in prison and is facing up to 11 more. So his defense attorney found information from the Kansas Department of Corrections on just how much it would cost to put this shoplifter in prison for those extra 10 or so years and showed the court it would be upwards of $550,000. I'm betting this guy never came close to stealing half a million dollars worth of stuff from Wal-Mart. That'd be a lot of DVDs.
To me, this is a no-brainer. We incarcerate far too many people anyway. Our incarceration rates are insane compared to the rest of the world. It's such an uncreative answer. And an expensive one. Given that both this state and the country are in some difficult financial straits, doesn't it seem logical to allow a little fiscal sense to creep into our criminal justice system?
And yet, the comments on this story would suggest that an awful lot of people don't care if it's wasteful to spend half a million dollars to put a petty thief in prison for 20 years. Either people don't want to save the money and find some more cost-effective way of dealing with a petty thief. Or they'd like to find him a bullet or a rope, or cut off his hands. I find this attitude discouraging, to put it mildly.
That $550,000 could be so much better spent on schools, roads, energy, and so very many other things. I resent the notion that my agency will have to suffer further cuts, which we can't absorb, and that severely underpaid state employees who do thankless jobs won't get richly-deserved pay adjustments because we just have to keep this guy in prison for 2 decades.
But what do I know. I'm just a bleeding heart liberal who's soft on crime.