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Missouri is Informing Judges about the Costs of Sentences

| November 29, 2010

Missouri is now providing its judges with a “Sentencing Assessment Report” (SAR), a document which informs the judge of the cost of the sentence that he or she will imminently deliver.  A recent New York Times article explains how it works:

“For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770.  A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.”

Missouri’s SARs may or may not be a good idea — but they are certainly a controversial idea: “The practice has touched off a sharp debate. It has been lauded nationally by a disparate group of defense lawyers and fiscal conservatives, who consider it an overdue tool that will force judges to ponder alternatives to prison more seriously.  But critics — prosecutors especially — dismiss the idea as unseemly. They say that the cost of punishment is an irrelevant consideration when deciding a criminal’s fate and that there is a risk of overlooking the larger social costs of crime.”

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