Editor’s Note: I know it’s tough, but civil disobedience is the peoples’ duty. Check out Courts, Bonds, Liens. Also read Why You are Entitled to Remedy Using a Fee Schedule.
Drug offenses are self-explanatory, but the public-order offenses also fall under the victimless crimes category. Public order offenses include such things as immigration, weapons charges, public drunkenness, selling lemonade without a license, dancing in public, feeding the homeless without a permit etc..
The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 756 per 100,000 of the national population. The world population in 2008 is estimated at 6,750 million (United Nations); set against a world prison population of 9.8 million this produces a world prison population rate of 145 per 100,000 (158 per 100,000 if set against a world prison population of 10.65 million).
In 2008, according to the Department of Justice, there were 7,308,200 persons in the US corrections system, of whom 4,270,917 were on probation, 828,169 were on parole, 785,556 were in jails, and 1,518,559 were in state and federal prisons. This means that the US alone is responsible for holding roughly 15% of all the prisoners in the world.
In other words, 1 in 42 Americans is under correctional supervision. This constitutes over 2% of the entire US population. That percentage jumps up drastically if we limit the comparison to working aged adult males, of which there are around 100 million. Over 5% of the adult male population is under some form of correctional supervision, alternatively stated, 1 in 20 adult males is under correctional supervision in the US. One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is too; as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34.
Keep in mind that 86% of those men in federal prisons are there for victimless crimes. They have not stolen any property, damaged any property or harmed anyone directly by their actions. Of course, if you are reading this and live in the US, you are paying for all those people to subsist on a daily basis. Roughly 34% of all prisoners in the US are incarcerated for victimless crimes.
In California in 2009 it cost an average of $47,102 a year to incarcerate an inmate in state prison. In 2005 it cost an average of $23,876 dollars per state prisoner nationally.
In 2007, 228 billion dollars was spent on police, corrections and the judiciary. That constitutes around 1.6% of total US GDP.
Of course, being the good economists that we are, we must not just look at the cost to incarcerate and police, but also at the opportunity cost to society that putting all those able-bodied men behind bars creates. When a man is put behind bars he is obviously incapable of contributing anything to society. He becomes a complete burden to society while producing nothing in return for the expenses he creates. He becomes a black void of resource destruction.
I find some dark humor in the fact that those who engage in victimless crime don’t create any real victims until they are put behind bars, at which point they cause the State to steal 47,000 dollars a year from the tax paying public. In our justice system today, victims are victimized twice. Once by the perpetrator of the crime against them, and the other by the State which then forces the victim to pay for the punishment of their assailant.
Clearly our society’s notion of “justice” is logically ridiculous. It’s apparently not OK for someone to steal from you, but its perfectly acceptable for the State to steal from you if the State is going to use that money to punish the person who stole from you. – what kind of asinine system of justice is that?
The only real justice that can be enacted in a free society is either physical punishment that costs next to nothing to administer, such as beatings, lashings, bullet to the head, etc..; monetary punishment in the form of taking the perpetrators property and handing it to their victim, or ostracism by defamation of character.
Putting people behind bars does nothing but squander resources. It deprives society of able-bodied workers and costs society massive amounts of resources which are stolen from the general public through the coercive theft of taxation. Consider how much richer American society would be today if it had an additional 5% of the male population working to produce goods and services in the private sector labor force.
Austrian economist Hans Hoppe has put together a fantastic presentation on how society could be organized in such a way as to eliminate all victimless crime while simultaneously eliminating the necessity of the State to steal from the victims of crimes to pay for their assailants punishment.
After you’re done watching Hoppe’s lecture, check out this fantastic comic put together by the Real Cost of Prisons project.