Monday, December 26, 2005

Statistics. Use with care, may be hazardous.

There was an excellent letter this morning in the Providence Journal letters to the editor section. A physician was writing about the recidivism of drug offenders. He compares the average cost per offender in prison to the average cost of methadone treatment, $30,142 (minimum security) versus $4250 average for methadone treatment.

Those pesky statistics can be misleading. The infrastructure, buildings, the minimum staffing of a prison facility means the cost per prisoner goes down dramatically as the number of prisoners goes up. If the average cost per prisoner is say, $75,000, a prison will not save $75,000 for each released prisoner.

That is not to diminish the doctor's main points in his letter. He is spot on when he points out the failure of our penal system in its treatment of substance abusers. Methadone clinics certainly do a better job at addressing the recidivism problem but what's right is right, independent of the cost.

Statistics can be misleading. Use with great care.

But maybe it's just me.

(Please use the "comments" link below to post your thoughts.)