When judges in St. Louis sentence criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the state of Missouri.
For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.
Months ago, members of the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission, a group of lawyers, judges and others established by state lawmakers years ago, voted to begin providing judges with the cost information on individual cases.
The concept is simple: Fill in an offender’s conviction code, criminal history and other background, and the program spits out a range of possible sentences, statistical information about the likelihood of Missouri criminals with similar profiles to commit more crimes, and, most controversially, the various options’ price tags.