Should Criminals Convicted of non Violent Crimes Face Jail Terms – No

Non-violent crimes should be punished in non-violent retribution. Studies back up the reasons why.

1. Recidivism
Non-violent criminals have a recidivism rate of only 3% according to the Department of Justice. Once caught, these criminals do not repeat their crimes. These rates take into consideration that more than half of non-violent criminals are not sentenced to jail time.

2. Cost
The cost of housing a non-violent criminal in a penal institution exceeds $82,000.00 per year according to Institute’s study on prison spending. This amount is added to the average cost of $28,000.00 per charge to prosecute according to the Attorney General’s Office. During incarceration, the offender generates no tax money to recoup the expenses of housing or prosecution.

3. Restitution
Non-violent criminals are routinely sentenced to pay restitution for their crimes. This restitution is not made until after the prison terms are served. This prolongs the period of time the victim remains penalized.

4. Taxes
Electronic monitoring of non-violent offenders costs less than $10,000.00 per year. During the monitoring period, the offender is required to make restitution and to participate in work-release programs. The offender must pay taxes on all income received through the program, thus defraying some of the costs of punishment. Alternatively, placing non-violent offenders on probation is less than one-twentieth the cost of imprisonment.1

5. Economic Impact
Typical non-violent offenses are considered “white collar crime” and include malfeasance, misappropriation, identity theft and embezzlement. These forms of theft have long-lasting repercussions on the economy at large until such time as restitution is complete.2 Crimes of this nature affect insurance rates, stock values and interest rates which, in turn, penalize the general public.

6. Fines
Fines associated with non-violent crimes are inadequate to recoup the losses of the prosecutors and the courts. When prison sentences are imposed, these fines cannot be paid until after the incarceration is complete.

7. Criminal Investigations
Investigations into non-violent crime require more technologically advanced equipment, many man hours and extend over months. The lost man hours impede investigation into violent crime. This leads to a disproportionate amount of violent crime not being investigated in areas where non-violent crime is more prevalent, such as large metropolitan cities and financial centers.

8. Community Service
Community services hours are only sentenced in approximately 20% of non-violent cases. If this statistic would rise to the amount of 80%, more restitution would be granted to the public at large for crimes that are more far-reaching than just the named victim.

Non-violent offenders should be forced to work as part of the society they have offended until such time as they have made full restitution to their victims, their communities and the offices taxed with the investigation, prosecution and monitoring of their crimes and punishment.

1 Pew Center on the States, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2009).

2 Piehl, Anne M., Bert Useem and John J. DiIulio, Jr., Right-Sizing Justice: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Imprisonment in Three States (New York: Manhattan Institute, Sept. 1999)