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Tsitrian Guesses We Could Spend $70M a Year on Better Things Than Locking People Up

Independent blogger John Tsitrian smartly ties the ACLU’s Smart Justice campaign against mass incarceration to Democratic Congressional candidate Tim Bjorkman’s profoundly useful position paper on the social costs of crime and imprisonment. Tsitrian wonders why we’d spend so much money locking people up when that does so little to repair broken people and reduce our ongoing costs:

Setting aside the altruistic impulse to help these people for a moment, consider the cost of housing and caring for nearly 4,000 prisoners every day.  In 2014 (most recent number I could find from South Dakota’s Department of Corrections) it cost $54.00 a day to incarcerate an inmate. That comes out to more than $70 million a year–and we’re just talking about the state prison system, not country or other local jailhouse facilities.  If most of those prisoners, say 60% extrapolating from Bjorkman’s numbers, are non-violent, you have to wonder if the money used to imprison them wouldn’t be better spent trying to get these troubled people some help [John Tsitrian, “Warehousing People in South Dakota’s Prisons Isn’t Working,” The Constant Commoner, 2018.08.08].

We probably can’t expect any better policies from a Republican Party that has made Lock her up! a rallying cry. I’ll be talking with the ACLU later today to learn more about their Smart Justice campaign and what alternative policies might produce better results for our state budget and for our fellow South Dakotans. Stay tuned for that podcast over the weekend!


  1. Jason 2018-08-10 10:04

    Hillary did commit a crime. She was never charged for it. Those are the facts Cory.

  2. mike from iowa 2018-08-10 17:49

    Therefore she is not a criminal. Troll.

    Mr T’s ideas are too sensible for the lege in South Dakota to understand or undertake. Without considerable new and smarter blood in Pierre, South Dakota will remain seen as Northern Mississippi.

    Not to rub salt in a fresh wound, but look at the mess in the Attorney General’s race. Qualified candidates got ignored by wingnuts to nominate……………..?

  3. jerry 2018-08-10 19:51

    John T. is correct on this. We shall soon see why that 70 million here and 20 million there will need to be trimmed back to save our bacon as we slide quickly to another meltdown.

    “New Chapter 11 bankruptcies in the US spiked 63% year-over-year in March to 770 filings, the highest number of filings for any month since April 2011 (when there had been 789 filings as companies were still trying to emerge from the Great Recession).

    This chart shows Chapter 11 filings back to 2011, based on data from the American Bankruptcy Institute. The last six Marches are marked with red dots. The year-over-year jump of 299 filings in March is the second largest year-over-year jump for any month since the Great Recession. It is behind only the jump of 366 filings last December, which had set a post-recession record.”

    Here in South Dakota, after the Bribes wear down, we are gonna see some serious failures much like we did in 2008. So what kind of idea men do we have in Washington? Well, we have a coke addict named Larry Kudlow, running the show, kind of says it all.

  4. grudznick 2018-08-10 20:41

    We still need to lock all those scofflaws up, we just need to do it cheaper.

  5. Debbo 2018-08-11 01:12

    A judge who’s thrown lots of scofflaws in the slammer, got tired of seeing the same faces and/or same crimes. He decided there had to be a better way so he brought Drug Court to his southeast Minnesota circuit.

    I got to listen to the crusty old judge extol the virtues of Drug Court. Recidivism dropped, lives changed, the crime rate decreased. He’s pushing it to become standard across the state.

    SD needs Drug Courts.

  6. OldSarg 2018-08-11 10:38

    Debbo, who is the judge and do you have any available information on his program? I have seen some studies on behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy and those seem to work but they are addressed within the prison/jail as opposed to in a court. Just a link if you have one handy. I’ll search as well. Thanks.

  7. Debbo 2018-08-11 11:39

    OS, the judge spoke at my church last year, but I don’t remember his name. I’m sorry.

    He said they have to appear before him regularly to talk about what they’re doing, progress, setbacks, obstacles. He said it’s more satisfying for him too because he gets to know the people and develops some investment in their success. For the offenders, that makes a big difference, knowing that there are people who care about them.

    The offenders have regular UAs, need to find a home, job, etc, things that create stability. Families are involved and supported too because they play such a major role in the offenders success.

    The judge said all that costs money, but is cheaper than incarceration and much cheaper than seeing the same people in his court and our prisons repeatedly.

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