Sunday, 7 December 2008

NSW locks up 10,000 crims - now for the rest

The SMH seems to be in a bit of a lather today with the news that our prison population has hit 10,000, and is likely to grow by 20% over the next 7 years. Which, given the way we are sucking in more people, will probably be about in line with population growth.

The writers make a big thing about the bill, which I calculated at $AUS200 per prisoner per day.

I have just had an afternoon nap, and the brain is very fuzzy, so let's see if I got the following maths correct.

The US population is about 44 times that of NSW (305 million vs 6.89 million). The US locks up 2.2 million people at the moment, if you include local, state and federal prisons. If the US locked them up at the same rate as NSW, they'd have 440,000 people in the slammer - but instead, the number is 5 times that.

Wikipedia has a fabulously leftie-slanted article on how many people the US locks up. It is worth reading just for the intense hand wringing that some of the authors display.

The other interesting statistic that I deduced is that in the US, it costs $US88 per day to keep a crim from hurting someone else, or their interests. In NSW, the cost is $AUS200 per day. Even if you account for recent exchange rate movements and the like, we are spending nearly double what the US is to incarcerate horrible people.

If you ask me, the SMH has it all wrong. Part of their complaint about our growing prison population is the cost of locking away idiots. Well, why not turn this on its head and ask this - if we reduce the cost of locking people up, we can lock up nearly twice as many for the same money. How do we do that?

In case you are wondering where I stand on all this, I don't believe that gaol cures many criminals from committing further crimes. Some people are just bad, and locking them up won't remove that badness. However, whilst they are inside, the only people they can be nasty too is other crooks, so I have no problem with locking up lots of them for a long time.

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