The Many Costs of Crime ⋆ Politicrossing
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Life

The Many Costs of Crime

Does serving time in jail or prison somehow repay society for the range of civic, social, and economic costs associated with the transgression?

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When someone commits a crime and serves time for his or her transgression, whether the crime is murder or as simple as vandalism, has the debt to society truly been paid? The notion prevails that serving time in jail or prison somehow repays society for the transgression. Is this the case, or even close to being so?

Let’s consider the crime of vandalism and not murder. In one town, four students vandalized the outside brick walls of the then newly constructed high school by writing racially-charged messages intended to hurt other students. The perpetrators were quickly apprehended and sentenced.

Assessing the True Costs

Jail time, community service, and paying to have the brickwork cleaned seem to satisfy most people’s sense of fairness. What are the true costs, however, of such a crime? In the case of the four young men who chose to vandalize the school building, we have the emotional pain of those to whom the messages were directed.

If I were a student who had gone to this school, and on one random day I arrived to be greeted by a large message in spray paint that essentially said I was not wanted there, would jail time, a few hours of community service, or removal of such paint restore me to my previous state?

Even if the messages were harmless, such as a school slogan, what about the cost of the law officers, school officials, town officials, town magistrates, and court officials? What about the judge involved in bringing the case to court, achieving judicial resolution, and carrying out the sentence? Is their time collectively, including their per-hour costs, overtime, oil and gas for any vehicles, equipment, supplies, insurance benefits, and a host of real dollar costs, repaid by criminals?

Consider the costs the local jurisdiction pays in terms of constructing and maintaining facilities; cleaning linens; cooking meals; paying utility bills, including hot water, lights, and electricity to house such perpetrators during their jail time. How, and when, is that repaid? You guessed it – through tax dollars. Are such out-of-pocket costs to society ever paid by the perpetrators themselves?

Truth in Debt to Society

Consider the resulting costs to society when someone commits a robbery, armed robbery, grand larceny, fraud, assault, rape, or murder. For these, and other crimes against individuals, organizations, governments, and other social institutions, are the comprehensive and true costs to the victims of the crime and society at large ever paid by those who commit such acts in the first place?

If criminals were charged with the full cost of their actions – call it “truth in debt to society,” including all of their processing, court, and incarceration costs – added to the penalty they’re assessed by the judge, then the justice system would be more respectful of taxpayers, and more sensitive to taxpayers, and provide a much heartier form of justice to victims and the criminals.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Life

Ignore Much of What Pundits Have to Say

Can we be confident in advice we receive from people who have not mastered what they teach?

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When the opportunity arose, I attended a lecture by one of the most well-known authors and speakers in America. I had previewed his CD and read two of his books prior to his lecture; in person, he lived up to my expectations. So, I was intrigued when a friend, involved with bringing this speaker to our area relayed a personal incident to me. 

Directly following the speaker’s presentation, my friend was responsible for driving him to the airport, and accompanying him until his flight departed. That summer afternoon, it was rainy and the skies were dark.

As it turned out, the author was a nervous flyer and took several drinks in the airport lounge prior to boarding the plane.  I found this incident to be amazing because I had so often heard him say things such as, “Everything in this universe is perfect.” It struck me that, in many ways, the speaker wasn’t practicing his philosophy. Nevertheless, all human beings have their faults and foibles and, as time passed, I forgot about the incident.

High-Priced Gurus

One morning, I had the occasion to pick up USA Today. In the lifestyle section, there was a feature on a relationship guru and author of international best-sellers on relationships. She had won the “Oscar” of infomercials, earning $24 million in a single year.  

In this published interview, the reporter asked her why we should listen to a relationship guru who had been married five times. Five times? I couldn’t believe it! She had wedded her fifth husband, some 11 years her junior, only a short time before producing her award-winning infomercial on having a successful relationship. 

In the infomercial, she is featured as having a loving relationship with her husband. Okay, but in no way does the infomercial tell us that he is her fifth husband and that she had married him three weeks ago.

Not Walking their Talk

I had a flash from the past: I recalled the story about the nervous flyer author. Yet, nothing prepared me for the revelations about the relationship guru, a self-proclaimed expert, using the slickest 21st-century marketing available to sell her information and products.  

She was well-versed in her subject matter. Upon hearing her advice, I recognized that it did seem sound. However, the larger issue is, “Can we be confident in the advice we receive from those who have not mastered what they teach, or who do not even remotely walk their talk?”

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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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