Expenditures - State Corrections
prison spent billion prisons
Based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Justice Expenditure and Employment in the United States, 2001, corrections represented about 3% of state and local direct expenditures in 2001. The criminal and justice system as a whole accounted for some 7% of state budgets, while 30% went to education, 14% to public welfare, and 7% to health and hospitals. These percentages have been remarkably steady since 1977. (See Figure 2.1.)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, direct corrections expenditures by states in 2003 were $39.2 billion. (See Table 2.5.) The last year for which a complete breakdown of state prison expenses is available is 2001. According to James J. Stephan of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (State Prison Expenditures 2001, June 2004), a total of $38.2 billion was spent by state correctional systems in 2001. Of that amount, $29.5 billion was used for operating adult correctional facilities. The average annual operating cost per state inmate in 2001 was $22,650. (See Table 2.6.) State prisons in the Northeast spent the most on average per prisoner ($33,037), while those in the South spent the least ($16,479). State prisons cost each U.S. resident an average of $100 a year to operate. Prisons in the West cost the most per resident ($108), while those in the South cost the least ($91). Overall, Southern states spent the most money on prisons ($10 billion) and had the largest prison population (563,818).
Various factors, many out of the control of prison officials, influence the costs of running a state prison. Among such variables are climate (heating costs in the Northeast can be more expensive than in the South), local wage rates, and local cost of living. However, other costs are within the control of prison officials. State prisons with a high inmate-to-staff ratio, that is, with fewer guards, reported lower costs,
|Total inmates in custodya||Prisoners in custody on December 31||Inmates in jail on June 30||Incarceration rateb|
|Percent change, 2002–2003||2.6%||6.6%||1.4%||3.9%|
|Average annual increase, 1995–2003||3.5%||7.7%||2.7%||4.0%|
|Note: Counts include all inmates held in public and private adult correctional facilities.|
|aTotal counts include federal inmates in non-secure privately operated facilities (6,471 in 2003, 6,598 in 2002, 6,515 in 2001 and 6,143 in 2000).|
|bNumber of prison and jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents at year end.|
while those with large staffs, some as high as one staff member for every 1.7 inmates, had heavy costs. States with a few large prison facilities tended to have lower overall operating costs than those with multiple, smaller facilities.
The $29.5 billion spent on state prison operations in 2001 was an increase of almost 23% from 1996, when $24 billion was spent, and a 150% increase from 1986, when a total of $11.7 billion was spent. The per capita rate for prison expenditures (cost per year to each U.S. resident) also rose during this period at an average annual rate of 6.4%. (See Table 2.7.) Compared to other state expenses, prison spending was relatively low. In 2001 the per capita rate for education was $1,315 and for public welfare, $914.
In 2001 salaries, wages, and benefits for state prison employees made up about two-thirds of state prison operating expenditures. Table 2.8 breaks down prison operating expenditures by state during that fiscal year. Operating costs include supplies, maintenance, and contractual services. About 4% is spent on new construction, renovations, major repairs, equipment, land, or buildings. Expenditures for new prison construction have been declining, from $1.5 billion in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 2001.
Other operating costs for state prisons include medical care, food service, and utilities. By far the largest of these costs was some $3.3 billion spent on prisoner medical care in 2001, followed by $1.2 billion for prisoner food, and $996 million for utilities. (See Table 2.9.) Nationwide, the average annual amount spent for medical care per prisoner was $2,625 (the average spent by U.S. citizens on their own health care is $4,370 per year.) The amount spent on prisoner medical care varied widely by state. Such factors as a high number of inmates with drug and alcohol abuse problems can raise costs, while operating larger prison facilities, and thereby raising the average inmate-to-doctor ratio, can result in cost savings. In 2001 Maine spent the most on prisoner medical care ($5,601), while Louisiana spent the least ($860). By region, the West averaged the most spent on medical care ($3,672), and the South averaged the least ($2,025). Annual food service costs tended to be lowest in those states, such as Mississippi ($297 per prisoner) and North Carolina ($191 per prisoner), where prisons operated their own farms and grew their own fruits and vegetables. In addition, North Carolina prisoners operate their own cannery and meat processing plant.