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What Is The Price Of Punishment Essay

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Social scientists, sociologists and psychologists are yet to agree on the price of punishment. This is because there are no statistics to prove that punishment reduces crime. In fact the very statistics show that those countries with highest crime rates have highest imprisonments and vice versa. One of the core subject matters of Contemporary Society is that the shift from an industrial to a postindustrial order in the contemporary world is burdened with difficulties, as was the transition from an undeveloped (agricultural) to an industrialized order in a previous era.

Within this framework, it is observed that the escalating disintegration of the social order, which predisposes people away from a common purpose and the community and often invites disunity and conflict. This leads to upsurge of crime which calls for punishment in handy.[1] However, punishment costs in terms of the dollar and it also has the human cost.


The Dollar Cost of Punishment

Estimates show that the cost of punishment financially is far reaching.

The statistics indicate that an estimated $74.2 billion was spent in 1990 in the courts, on police, and corrections. The year that followed saw the state and federal governments plan an expenditure of about $6.8 billion in construction of new prisons, at an average cost of $53,100 per cell.[2] In the year 1990, it cost the local police departments a collective operating expenditure of $ 20.6 billion. Due to this, full-time employees in these departments had to be increased by about 20% within a period span of three years. http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/LIBRARY/dolrcost.htm

Hence law enforcement also continues to claim a big part of the total expenditures. These expenditures increased to more than $3 billion in 1982 from $80 million that it was in 1938, and by 1990 it rose to more than $41.5 billion. Police share of total city resources(budgets) increased from 8 percent (1940) to 14 percent (1980).

Human Cost

Punishment entails imprisonment of the individual or individuals who have committed crime. As this incarceration trend continues, there is an imbalance in the number and ratio of people in the prison cells bearing the color in mind. For example statistics showed that in the late 90s about 7.5 million people were in prison cells 5.5 million of them being black men between ages of 18 and 39.

Additionally, about 25 percent of all Black men are caught up in the criminal justice system: on probation, in prison or on parole. There are more Black men in prison today than in college. In the early 90s the reports showed that for every Latino male who had a college degree, there were about 25 behind bars and that 60 percent of inmates were either Black or Latino.

Where compulsory minimums apply, Black offenders were 21 percent more likely and Latinos 28 percent more likely than whites to receive at least the mandatory minimum prison term.

Dallas and San Diego have about comparable rate of police-to-population ratio, yet San Diego has twice as less crime reported to the police.


Even if we were to double the nation’s police forces from 1 to 2 million, we could still expect only a modest decrease in crimes. My conclusion is that there is no best measure to punishment and thus no law enforcement solution to the crime problem. The factors that influence crime; sex, age, social class, race, unemployment rates, poverty, illegitimacy, and all those are in reality beyond the reach of a law enforcement community.

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