Vice Squad
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Should An Incarcerated Felon Be Allowed to Win the Lottery?

A generous Vice Squad reader brings our attention to this story out of the UK last week. An offender "was jailed between 1973 and 1987 for a series of sex attacks on women. He was returned to prison in 1989 for attempting to rape a 60-year-old woman in a park." But he was allowed out on work release, and one day, he bought a lottery ticket. He beat the astronomical odds, winning 7 million pounds (more than $12 million.) Now the Home Secretary wants to make sure that such a stroke of luck does not happen again to an incarcerated individual, via legislation that "would force offenders who won the lottery or other wealthy criminals to contribute to a compensation fund for victims of crime." The generous VS reader also noted that the Home Secretary spotted injustice in this particular lottery win -- presumably, then, not in the others?

Given that the National Lottery returns to winners only about 50 pence out of every pound ticket purchased, it might be thought that requiring prisoners to purchase lottery tickets would be a better route to preclude injustice.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution recently looked at the practice in some US localities of charging prisoners for room and board.

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