Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cost-Benefit Analysis Is Evil, Illustration # 763

From deep in the darkness of the NYT's piece today on the soaring US prison population, the shallow idiocy of policy wonk calculation shines through:
“The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”
Anyone who can look at the US mode of imprisonment and declare that it works, and declare further that this declaration is a simple truth, is an idiot. I have some sympathy for those who don't see any good alternative to our prison system, while acknowledging that it is horrible as it stands. But to say simply that its benefits far outweigh its costs is simply childish.