Professor Bennett Capers shares insight on police spending and how it affects state budgeting in MoneyGeek.
How does state spending on policing and corrections affect local areas?
For me, the main problem with the state spending on corrections is that it has facilitated over-incarceration. Scholars have long recognized that one of the criminal system’s problems is the correctional free lunch. Local prosecutors are responsible for addressing crime, but because corrections are handled at the state level, local prosecutors rarely have to worry about the financial costs of lengthy prison sentences. Thus, prosecutors can seek increasingly lengthy sentences—for example, sentencing someone to five year’s incarceration for attempting to vote, without having to worry about the actual financial costs of incarceration. It makes sense that if costs were internalized, prosecutors would be more measured in the sentences they seek and in determining what punishment is necessary to mete out justice.