Punishments for virtually all crimes (either against property or against people) should be denominated primarily in terms of money rather than prison time, hours of community service, or other methods. Property crimes would be the easiest to denominate in terms of money, but scores of crimes against people could also be denominated in terms of money as well as given additional penalties, if needed, such as prison time. However, prison time should be primarily reserved for criminals who pose a significant threat to the safety of people.
Nevertheless, whenever the punishment for certain crimes are stated in terms of monetary fines and/or prison time or whenever the courts or criminals are able to choose between serving prison time or paying a fine, the amount of the fine should always be at least roughly equivalent to the amount it would have cost to incarcerate the criminal in prison. For example, when the violation of a certain law says that the penalty imposed could be a fine as well as jail time, it is often the case that the fine is a ridiculously small amount compared to the amount and cost of prison or jail time. For instance, it is common for the fine to be $1,000 and for the jail time to be months long, such as three or six months. This is ridiculous. It can easily costs about $1,000 every week to house an individual in prison. If anything, the fine should be set at the higher amount so that the government would not end up spending more on housing the prisoner than what it would get from the levying of the fine. Even if the courts choose to impose only either the fine or the prison time, but not both, the amount of the fine should be directly related to the length of imprisonment and roughly equivalent to the cost of such an imprisonment.