You Can’t Reform the Criminal Justice System by Cutting Costs

By Stephen Lurie, New Republic

There is a disturbing trend in American discourse to think of crime reduction in purely conservative terms — reducing mass incarceration will save money. But as Lurie points out, this fails to address the causes of crime and instability. Cutting costs cannot create a fairer society.

“Nearly every time poverty is discussed, an author is describing how mass incarceration causes it—not how poverty contributes to crime and structural inequality. There’s plenty of discussion on how much mass incarceration costs and how much we could save, but, with some exceptions, there isn’t much in the way of considering preemptive changes to economic conditions, making the case for unpopular penal reform to reduce incarceration, supporting spending to improve conditions of incarceration, or dealing with the major costs of investing in feasible alternatives to incarceration. The dollar sign, though, makes thirty-nine appearances.”

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