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The Boston Globe



In fighting crime, spending smarter may be more key than spending more

Edward L. Glaeser mistakenly points to Attorney General Eric Holder’s altered Justice Department policy as a pendulum swing “from tougher to gentler justice” (“Police safety and sensitivity — for a price,” Op-ed, Sept. 5). Actually, Holder’s Smart on Crime initiative is a call to smarter law enforcement. Prosecution and jail time are costly and need to be focused on the offense and the risk the offender poses. Jailing low-level offenders, when proven, effective diversion programs lead to less crime, is — to put it mildly — just dumb.

Today, we incarcerate more Americans than any other country. In 2012, almost 1.6 million were imprisoned in the United States. In 1980, state and local jails spent $6.5 billion. Now, estimated spending exceeds $76 billion. This cost limits our ability to support health care, education, and jobs. It also limits our ability to spend more intelligently on law enforcement.

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