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Creating a Competitive Market for Justice by Wes Alexander

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    A restitution based system is simply more effective than stand-alone rehabilitation and punishment. Focusing on restitution leads to private investment in an incentive based criminal justice system. The net result is more justice, cheaper justice, and higher quality justice.

    History is made by those who challenge the status quo. Press your state and county leaders to make a mark on American history.

    -- 08/28/04

Governor Perdue,
Lt Governor Taylor,
Representatives Bannister, Dix, and Heard,
Senator Henson,
Georgia Senate President Johnson,
Georgia House Speaker Coleman,
Gwinnett County Commissioners,

Zell Miller’s claim to fame is a state monopoly on gambling. Roy Barnes will be remembered for changing the flag. Perhaps you too have a vision that will live beyond your days in office. If not, I highly recommend you explore modifying Georgia’s criminal justice system to focus on restitution instead of incarceration.

Such a system is more orthodox than one would think. Our Anglo-Saxon forerunners used it for hundreds of years with great success. It is the basis for Japan’s criminal justice system today. How successful is it? Japan has the lowest number of offenses and criminals in every crime category when compared to other industrialized countries. Japan is the only industrialized country with declining crime rates since World War II.

The people of Georgia have creative solutions. They do not need government domination over every aspect of society. We know that free markets tend to lower prices. We also know that free markets tend to improve quantity and quality. Be a hero; save the state a truck load of money and open the door to a free market in justice.


Wes Alexander

Creating a Competitive Market for Justice
By Wes Alexander

Proposal – Modify Georgia law to allow counties to experiment with privatized criminal enforcement and victim restitution in the area of property theft.

Our current system of justice is clearly focused on prohibition, apprehension and incarceration. The proposal above replaces incarceration with restitution. Making the victim’s restitution the end result of just law, makes moral and economic sense. Keep reading and see what you think.

At sentencing, this law would allow the victim to choose restitution from the convict instead of incarceration. A Gwinnett County victim could opt to receive monetary restitution directly from the convicted thief. Restitution would be based on a multiplier that is applied to the value of the stolen property. Property value would be determined prior to sentencing. The multiplier would be set by each county commission subject to state guidelines. If the multiplier was 10, an automobile worth $4,500 would command a repayment of $45,000. Such restitution would be tax free to the victim and totally marketable.

The restitution multiplier would not be static. County commissioners could change it as needed. Like any price in a free market, it would fluctuate based on supply and demand. If 10 times the value of stolen property did not attract management companies into this market, commissioners would simply raise the multiplier. The cost of restitution, punishment, and rehabilitation belong to the party that created the problem; the criminal.

Criminals that could not pay the restitution would become indentured to the victim. This is where privatization comes into play. Victims could elect to sell this marketable obligation to the highest bidder and have no further contact with the criminal. Ideally, multiple insurance and bonding companies would bid on such obligations, thereby maximizing the victim’s financial restitution.

In the example above, let’s say the restitution obligation was purchased for $9,000. This would give the victim two times the value of the stolen car, and the party purchasing the obligation would have the potential to earn $36,000. This potential profit would be above and beyond the cost to house, feed, monitor, or otherwise keep up with the convict as he or she worked off the obligation. Each criminal would hold a different potential for profit and reward depending on their ability and willingness to repay. Convicts with the potential to earn higher incomes or contribute to their upkeep, would be more desirable. Some criminals would be difficult to manage and others would not. Companies that understood these facts and how they affected return on investment would profit the most. If no bids were received, the convict would simply serve time in a public prison as is the case today.

There are many variations and enhancements a restitution based criminal justice system could have. Repeat offenders could have higher multipliers. Repentant or first time offenders could avoid court completely by publicly apologizing to the victim, then negotiating a restitution or repayment schedule through a third party guarantor. In Japan, such negotiations may include letters from the victim to the court recommending no further punishment is needed. This would provide relief to over crowded state and county courts.

Such a system of justice would create incentives that benefit everybody involved. Taxpayers would have reduced incarceration costs. Victims would receive immediate restitution. Depending on capability and level of cooperation, convicts could quickly repay their debt and return to free society. Convicts would be treated humanly since they would be viewed as financial assets instead of liabilities.

Some people will be offended by this proposal. They will decry the insensitivity and slave like bondage being proposed. To these, I say read section 1 of the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. It says:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Those that worry about prisoner abuse and public oversight should ask themselves the following question. Who is more likely to abuse prisoners; those who profit from speedy repayment and the efficient management of prisoners, or those who simply baby sit for fixed time periods? Laws that prohibit abuse today would continue to apply regardless of who managed the system.

A restitution based system is simply more effective than stand-alone rehabilitation and punishment. Focusing on restitution will lead to private investment in an incentive based criminal justice system. The cost of justice would operate in a free market. The citizens of Georgia would get more justice, cheaper justice, and higher quality justice.

Our current system is not carrying its own weight and those creating the injustice—the criminals—are not bearing enough of the burden. History is made by those not afraid to change the status quo. Make a mark on American history.

Bruce Benson's Restitution in Theory and Practice - This is a 24 page PDF.

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