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Other Side of Jail-Cost Question

June 25, 1989

George Balderas' response (June 18) to my letter of June 4 failed to vindicate the long-since disproven liberal ideology of the ACLU, especially in the face of recent research.

Balderas complains about the high costs of constructing new jail facilities, yet he completely ignores the costs of allowing criminals to roam free on the streets.

As Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Richard Abell has pointed out, the average criminal costs society at least $430,000 in crime costs per year--costs to law-abiding citizens who are attacked, robbed, and victimized. Even assuming Balderas' high estimate of $30,000 per year to keep a criminal in jail, society saves $400,000 per inmate per year by keeping them out of our neighborhoods.

Balderas also mistakenly argues that jailing criminals only makes them more likely to become "hardened, lifelong criminals." A recent RAND Corp. study found that "the conclusion . . . that prison 'makes offenders worse' " ignores the fact that most prisoners, as opposed to probationers, "generally are more serious criminals and have more of the characteristics associated with recidivism." It is terribly naive to think that every single drug pusher and violent felon can be rehabilitated, and researchers agree.

The only way to prevent and deter crime is to put criminals where they belong--in jail. As another RAND study put it, "the high degree of recidivism among released offenders indicates that crime could be reduced substantially by incarcerating more offenders or incarcerating them longer."

Building more jails is the best solution to the impending jail crisis. Californians again and again have insisted on tougher sentencing laws for keeping criminals in jail longer, and it's time we added the jail space needed to protect our families from crime and drugs.

The hard-working and law-abiding citizens of Orange County deserve better. Let's make 1990 the year to fight crime.

BRAD GATES

Sheriff-Coroner,

County of Orange

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