By | September 23, 2013 5 Comments

The extreme cost of psychopaths to society

The top story on the front page of Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer was disconcerting:

Bill for Savage trial easily tops $10 million

No one protested when a federal jury recommended in June that Kaboni Savage be put to death.

In just a few years, Savage had left a grisly trail in North Philadelphia. He gunned down one man, ordered the killing of five others, and directed the 2004 rowhouse firebombing that killed four children and two women.

The cocaine, PCP, and other drugs he peddled poisoned families, enticed boys into crime, and kept neighborhoods in decay.

According to the Inquirer, a police official once called Savage “pure evil.” He was convicted of 12 murders. The Inquirer wrote:

None was as tragic as the firebombing of the North Sixth Street house occupied by the family of Eugene Coleman, once a close friend and confidant of Savage’s who had agreed to testify against him.

Just before 5 a.m. Oct. 9, 2004, an enforcer enlisted by Savage doused the Coleman family house with gasoline, pumped gunshots up the stairs, and tossed in a lit gas can. The blaze killed Coleman’s 54-year-old mother, Marcella, and his 15-month old son, Damir Jenkins; a cousin, 34-year-old Tameka Nash; and Nash’s 10-year-old daughter, Khadjah, plus two other children, Tahj Porchea, 12, and Sean Rodriguez, 15.

Savage was in federal custody at the time, but in secret recordings played repeatedly for jurors, agents overheard him cackling and joking about the fire, and vowing to kill the mothers and children of all the “rats” who betrayed him.

“That’s all I dream about – killing rats,” he told his girlfriend in one call from prison.

I think it’s fair to assume that this man is a psychopath. But yesterday’s story wasn’t about the criminal. It was about the shocking cost of prosecuting him more than $10 million. Some of the itemized expenses:

  • Court-appointed lawyers for Savage and his co-defendants  $3.3 million
  • Per-diem payments and travel expenses for prospective jurors $325,000
  • Juror lunches and snacks $24,000
  • Transcripts $249,000
  • Additional travel and security by the Marshals Service $283,000
  • Cost of imprisoning Kaboni Savage $31,000 per year

So prosecuting one psychopath cost more than $10 million. At that rate, what do all psychopaths cost society?

The cost of crime

Kent A. Kiehl, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of New Mexico, and Morris B. Hoffman, district judge in the Second Judicial District, Denver, Colorado, came up with an estimate.

Kiehl and Hoffman authored a paper called The Criminal Psychopath: history, neuroscience, treatment and economics  [51 Jurimetrics J. 355—397 (2011)] In it, they estimate that psychopaths are responsible for approximately $460 billion per year in criminal social costs.

Read the scholarly paper.

How did they arrive at this figure?

They started with the work of David A. Anderson of the University of Chicago. Anderson wrote an article in 1999 called The Aggregate Burden of Crime He estimated that crime costs society $1.7 trillion per year (in 1997 dollars).

Anderson’s estimate included police protection, corrections, prosecution, lost workdays, medical costs of gun violence, deterrence, crime prevention, implicit psychic and health costs, opportunity costs (time spent preventing, carrying out, and serving prison terms for criminal activity).

After presenting all his research, Anderson concluded:

As criminals acquire an estimated $603 billion worth of assets from their victims, they generate an additional $1,102 billion worth of lost productivity, crime-related expenses, and diminished quality of life. The net loses represent an annual per capita burden of $4,118. Including transfers, the aggregate burden of crime is $1,705 billion. In the United States, this is of the same order of magnitude as life insurance purchases ($1,680 billion), the outstanding mortgage debt to commercial banks and savings institutions ($1,853 billion), and annual expenditures on health ($1,038 billion). [Figures are 1997 dollars.]

Read the scholarly paper.

Kiehl and Hoffman converted Anderson’s figure of $1.7 trillion in 1997 dollars to 2009 dollars. They say the social cost of crime is now $2.3 trillion.

Crime by psychopaths

Kiehl and Hoffman estimated how much of that crime was being committed by psychopaths. According to the authors, “Though psychopaths make up roughly 1% of the general male adult population, they make up between 15% and 25% of the males incarcerated in North American prison systems.”

They wrote:

If we assume 20% of the males in prison are psychopaths and that a similar percentage is involved in nonfelony offenses, and if we ignore the relatively small contributions of women offenders to this overall number, psychopaths alone are responsible for approximately $460 billion per year in criminal social costs.

By way of comparison, here are the estimated annual costs of other social problems:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse $329 billion
  • Obesity $200 billion
  • Smoking $172 billion
  • Schizophrenia $76 billion

Estimate is low

This cost of crime figure $460 billion is actually low, for three reasons.

First of all, Kiehl and Hoffman say it does not include the costs of psychopaths in psychiatric hospitals, and indirect costs such as the emotional suffering and treatment of victims.

Secondly, Kiehl and Hoffman are only including men who would be diagnosed as psychopaths, and they take great pains to differentiate psychopathy from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). The diagnostic criteria for psychopathy are more stringent than the criteria for ASPD. Kiehl and Hoffman say 20% of male prisoners are psychopaths, but 85% of all prisoners suffer from antisocial personality disorder.

Finally, Kiehl and Hoffman did not include juveniles and women.

Most people who commit crime are probably disordered in some way. Still, even the figure of $2.3 trillion as the social cost of crime may be low. Does it include all the unethical and immoral acts of people with personality disorders like wiping out their spouse’s savings and running up their credit cards? I doubt it, because these actions, technically, are not illegal.

The point is, disordered individuals create huge costs, in real dollars, to society and everyone in it. Perhaps it’s time that we learned these dangerous social predators exist.


Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of

Donna, Thank You!!!!!
This is exactly what needs to be more “in your face” general public publicized!!!! Add to that small white collar crime, medical costs of victim services, lost productivity, court costs for divorce and custody battles for victims, etc etc and its astronomical the havoc that these people cause!!!
Now if we can actually get some funding to do a REAL even small sample study of the costs of just the phenomenon of Love Fraud, we could get a much better idea of the actual societal costs involved. Its mind boggling….and most of them get away scot free!!!!!

Thank you for posting this overwhelming but eyeopening article!My own situation did not cost me as much financially as it was the cause of incalculable emotional and mental suffering for my children and myself.But he cost his parents alot even into adulthood.


What an outrage…another lucrative establishment racket we are forced to support!
But good people do not like to end lives; and advocates in the service of the professional enablers of our justice system, as well as our current fixation on political correctness, push our guilt buttons to convince us that even the miserable lives of DEMONS deserve protection.
And think of all the JOBS that the business of evil-enabling creates! Most of all the overpaid bureaucracy connected with it…which in itself will ensure that the insanity won’t end any time soon.

Without going into my own story I have seen first hand how the socio plays the court system -and doesn’t pay into the system. The court system has allowed him to continue his reign of terror by allowing him access to public defenders who continually attack me and my “paid” attorneys. Last week, in divorce court during “equitable distribution”all of the attorneys in the court house (and no, I am not exaggerating) started laughing when the judge asked his divorce attorney of record why he was recusing himself from the case. The group of vultures who had defended him for the criminal charges of DV/ hiring a professional to kill me (went through 4 of them). Their court time, my court time, loss of work, witnesses, transcripts etc has cost me personally over $50,000.00. No one has ever brought up except for me the cost- and how he is able to afford a private divorce attorney when the PD’s are still representing him for his current DV violations- literally for free. Oh, I should mention that each time he plead or was found guilty- surprise- the socio appealed- which means more court time, travel expenses and attorney costs to me. I’ve become a stronger person and the constant back in forth in court- is just a game to him. He doesn’t realize that I know longer care… therefore I have won.


Every time I decide there is no Hell Eternal there are stories like this that make me hope there is.

Send this to a friend