The Cost of Denial
The Cost of Denial Costs Us All
From a 1995 publication by The Youth Task Force
(League of California Cities)
Today's cost of incarceration, including the demand for prison construction, is forcing government at all levels to cut back or cease vital services, irrespective of the pain and inconvenience caused its citzenry. Our inability or unwillingness to stem the violence, by early intervention, has contributed greatly to today's incarceration rate. The road we've been on for the past several decades of increasing law enforcement and incarceration expenditures has not resulted in less crime. What we've been doing is not working! Isn't it time for a new approach?
Prisoners get free food, free housing, free medical care and free required supervision while behind bars. This care is free to prisoners, but expensive to taxpayers. In 1992, states spent $20.1 billion on corrections, according to governmental finances data published by the Census Bureau. Of this total, $15.4 billion was spent directly on correctiona. Institutions. The 1992 total does not include the $5.5 billion states spent on policy protection, the $7.5 billion spent on the legal system, welfare support for families of incarcerated breadwinners, nor their foregone income and tax payments, while behind bars. The figure also does not include money spent by private individuals in their attempts to secure their own safety.
Violence is expensive, both economically and in terms of life. In 1992, 37% of firearms deaths were chldren between the agest of 10 and 25. The costs associated with preventing injuries and deaths from violence are increasingly being recognized as an appropriate and necessary public health focus. Firearms are the major contributors to the cost of violence. In 1990, those costs reached $20.4 billion. This figure breaks down as $1.4 billion for emergency, hospital, medical and rehabilitative care; $1.6 billion for lost productivity due to illness and temporary or permanent disability; and $1.7 billion for lost productivity due to death. Californians suffer approximately 12% of all firearm violence injuries. California's share of the 1990 cost of violence was $2.44 billion.
The average cost to hospitalize a gun shot victim is $33,000. Taxpayers pay 80% of these costs. The average cost of treating a wounded child, who far too often is the victim of firearm violence (37% of firearm deaths in 1992 were children between the ages of 10 and 25), was $14,434 in 1991 - the equivalent of one year's tuition, and room and board at a private college. Because we must all work within limited budgets, by spending more money on prisons and law enforcement, we are spending less on the types of program that could effect better results.
From "The Cost of Denial," a publication of the Youth Task Force of the League of California Cities, 1995. Available in hardcopy by ordering online from the CityLink 2000 website.
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