Costly Briefs

Costly Briefs

Prison officials expect the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to be assigned to the Supermax Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado.  The sentence came four months after he pleaded guilty to trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 carrying 289 people to Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009.  Umar was sentenced to four life sentences.  Justice has been done or has it?

The stark reality of the situation is that at age 25, Umar could be housed in the Federal Prison for approximately 45 to 50 or more years.  It costs $179.50 per day to house a prisoner in Colorado.  Doing a little basic math, 365 x 50 x $179.50 = $3,275,875 dollars.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Umar will cost the taxpayers of the United States over three and a quarter million dollars to incarcerate for the next 50 years not counting inflation, rising food costs, etc.  And that is not the most expensive prison in the United States.  It costs $207.00 a day to house a prisoner in Michigan.  That Michigan daily rate amounts to almost $76,000 a year.  Sad, as most Americans don’t earn that much money in a given year, will never earn that much money in a year.

One year ago I wrote an article entitled Incarceration Nation.  Sadly we have in the United States the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.  As of June, 2009, we had 2,297,400 people incarcerated in the U.S. prisons and jails.  As a nation, we struggle to provide some of the most basic services to our poor and hungry.  Over 45 million of our citizens are part of the Food Stamp Program.  It would appear that there is something wrong with our focus as a nation.

The cost to house a captive at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is $800,000 per year.   That is more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.  Taxpayers are footing this outrageous bill for 171 captives.  You would think that with the cost of our current budget and a Congress charged with cutting a deficit of $1.33 trillion dollars that someone would look at the $139,000,000 that the Navy spent last year on Guantanamo?

Even if you are an advocate of the death penalty, the average time that a death row inmate may spend in prison can vary between 12 to 25 years.  We seem to spend more time on people like Umar and the 171 terrorists in Cuba than we do on the poor and hungry in the United States.  As of September 2011, there were 46.2 million people or roughly one in seven Americans who were considered poor.  Their income level can be as low as $10,400 per year up to around $26,000 annually.  In other words, if you made $12.00 per hour and worked all year supporting a family of four – your spouse and two children, you would be considered below the poverty level.

It does upset me to think about the costs that we incur as a nation to incarcerate people like Umar when so many of our citizens go hungry.  But justice has been done or has it?

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Written by
Donald Wittmer