The Price of Social Justice

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley’s recent piece, “The Economic and Human Costs of Protecting Criminals,” breaks down the impact of progressive sentencing reforms enacted across the country to achieve social justice.  The elimination of cash bail…the conversion of theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors…various “second chance” or so called smart sentencing laws enacted by democrat politicians to sentence habitual criminals to rehab rather than prison or jail, have come at a very high price.

“There’s little doubt that these policies, promoted in the name of social justice for the poor, result in more crimes being committed by people who otherwise would be behind bars. A study by two professors at the University of Utah, Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles, concluded that “after more generous release procedures were put in place, the number of released defendants charged with committing new crimes increased by 45%.” Proponents insist that only “low-level” and “nonviolent” offenders can take advantage of these reforms, but the study found that “the number of pre-trial releases charged with committing new violent crimes increased by an estimated 33%.” Shoplifters don’t always stick to shoplifting.”


“Those who want to defund the police and drastically reduce the size of the prison population complain that states tend to spend more money per inmate than per pupil. But the relevant comparison is between the costs of incarceration and costs of letting lawbreakers run rampant in society.

A 2021 paper published by the University of Chicago’s Journal of Law and Economics put annual spending on policing and corrections at about $250 billion. Meanwhile, a study released the same year by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation “conservatively estimated” that the yearly cost of personal and property crimes in the U.S. is $2.6 trillion. By that comparison, it’s hard to conclude that we spend too much money on law enforcement.”

As retailers across the country like Walgreens have closed stores in democrat-controlled cities due to huge losses from  consequence-free shoplifting and stores such as Starbucks forced to close because of violence against employees and customers, it is the urban poor who suffer the most.

“What’s even harder is putting a price on the psychic burden of crime—the constant fear that you or a loved one will become a victim in neighborhoods where street gangs are in charge and gunshots are a familiar sound. Tying the hands of police, prosecutors and judges doesn’t help the poor, who are the most likely victims of the criminals being coddled. Most poor people are law-abiding, and they don’t deserve to be dismissed as an afterthought by social-justice advocates and their allies on the political left. Progressive policies that treat lawbreakers like victims and cops like suspects aren’t only counterproductive but expensive. And some people will wind up paying with their lives.”

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