Fields: Reveal The Real Co$T Of Ju$tice

Guest Columnist

The Federal Court of Appeals recently upheld Judge Federico Moreno’s 30-year sentence for Dr. Ana Alvarez-Jacinto.  The 55-year-old Miami endocrinologist ripped off Medicare for more than $8 million. 
Much of that sentence came from lying on the stand and running newspaper ads denouncing her conviction as a legal lynching.
I wonder if Federal District Judge Moreno considered the million dollars of taxpayer money he spent on that sentence?  If Moreno was a Missouri state judge, it would have been easy to find out how much hie sentence cost taxpayers.

Jail Time Costs Tax Money

Nobody is less accountable for spending tax dollars than judges on sentencing day.

When the Florida legislature passes a law, it is required to issue a fiscal impact statement. If the Governor wants to change gardeners, he needs to figure it into the budget.
Not judges.
Maybe it is right for a judge to give some teenager 50 years in the slammer.  But is also right for him to consider, and the public to know, that he has just spent about $1.5 million.

It’s right for a judge to know the cost of options such as probation, house arrest, etc. How about split sentences that include a combination?

Missouri:  Show Me The Cost Of Jail Time

In Missouri, a judge has to consider the costs of a sentence. 

Many states, including Florida, have sentencing guidelines.  But beginning in 1998, along with things like severity of the crime, victim injury and criminal history the Missouri Sentencing Commission encourages judges to consider: “a rational use of correctional resources consistent with public safety.
To assist the judges, there is an online system that can plug in all the information about the defendant, the crime and the sentencing options.
What the computer provides is statistical information about sentences for similar defendants. It includes the likelihood of recidivism and the CO$T of the various sentencing options.
Judges are not bound by the numbers. 
The system has the support of fiscal conservatives and criminal defense lawyers.  Not so much prosecutors.
So if you want to cheer on Draconian sentencing consider this:  If  every week a judge hands out a 20-year sentence, that amounts to something north of $25 million a year!  
Nobody would suggest that the legislative or executive branches of government should be immune from reporting the fiscal impact of their decisions.
It may be time to bring the judicial branch under that umbrella.

5 Responses to “Fields: Reveal The Real Co$T Of Ju$tice”

  1. Retired says:

    Judges are prohibited to go below the lowest end of the Punishment Code (the old Sentencing Guidelines)except: by an agreed downward departure between the prosecutor and the defense attorney OR consideration of a defense attorney’s Motion for Downward Departure. Mr. Fields’ arguments are well-taken, but it is first and foremost a LEGISLATIVE issue, not a judicial issue.

  2. Death Frog 3 says:


    Although I don’t entirely disagree with the premise, the cost of the sentence is irrelevant. When you weigh the cost of the sentences, you bring the “value” of the crime / victim into the argument.

    This is fine in a civil environment but not in the criminal courts.

    We have a few public officials who took bribes and were convicted or took plea deals. The amount of money at issue was less than 10K. So does that mean they should only be incarcerated equal to the amount of money involved?

    What about murder cases? If I were to kill Bill Gates would I be punished more harshly than if I were to kill a street person.

    Then you go to the cost of investigations. Do you budget investigations?
    As an attorney, you know that in criminal court the deck is stacked against the defense. That is the real problem in the courts. You get the justice you can afford.

  3. What Cost Justice - What Cost Safety says:

    Sam – I agree with you in theory on this. We should all be cognizant of the cost of various rulings in court cases.

    But I am concerned about judges being required to take the cost of a sentence into consideration.

    We had a judge running for reelection this summer talking about how he saved the County so much money by letting people out of jail, which allowed the closure of a jail.

    I’m sorry, but I want my judges making decisions on who stays in custody and who gets incarcerated as a sentence based on the nature of the crime and the needs of public safety — not whether it saves or costs more.

    If a convicted criminal is a continuing danger to the community, the community should be protected, regardless of the cost.

    Similarly, if it costs $30k a year to keep someone in prison, but it costs $60k to put someone in long-term drug/substance treatment, but substance abuse treatment is a more appropriate remedy, that should be what the sentence is…..not the “cheaper alternative”.

    So fine, let there be studies that show what the costs are, and let judges be aware of what their sentences are resulting in use of taxpayer funds, but I want judges dispensing legal justice, not becoming bean counters.

    If it were cheaper to incarcerate someone than put them in

  4. So Nixionian says:

    You know your argument only supports the Mario Puzo Line a Lawyer with a Fountain Pen can rob more than a 1,000 men with guns. The same analogy applies to all White collar criminals. Thus, the only future deterrent to these “non violenT” white collar crimes is draconian punishment. By the way since taxpayer $$ was involved did the Doctor pay it back?probably not. So, the taxpayer funded an”exquisite” lifestyle on the front end until she got caught, so now we fund a new less exquiste lifestyle on the backend.But maybe the length of the sentence is a deterrent to the next white collar scamster. In the end, the public always foots the bill

  5. Lady Law says:

    Fields makes some good points. However, a judge would have one eye on re-election everytime he sentenced a defendant if he had to consider the money it costs.