Thursday, June 11, 2020

Police vs. Prisons

Alex Tabarrok has been arguing for decades now that the US spends far too much on prisons and not enough on police. Many Americans have the sense that our police forces are bloated and over-militarized, but we spend less per capita on the police than most wealthy nations. Compared to the average wealthy country, we have three times as many people in prison, but 35% fewer police officers (per capita).

There is some data that suggests this is absolutely the wrong approach, and that moving our spending from keeping people in prison to putting more officers on the street would make us safer. We don't do this because, I think, we are savagely vindictive in our urge to punish, and because we have an essentialist view of evil: we think that bad people are just bad and once they have gone definitively bad (if not from birth) there is nothing to be done for them but to make sure they don't trouble us any more.

I am sure Tabarrok posted about this now because of the talk about "defunding the police" and so on, but it is good to remember that our police violence problem does not stem from our having too many officers.

1 comment:

pootrsox said...

I think he's right. And I think *you* are correct in the reasons for it. Well-said.