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The Hidden Cost of Incarceration in Jails
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The concern about the high cost of incarceration has many communities and government officials looking for ways to reduce incarceration and therefore costs. Understanding all costs incurred by communities to support jails will help local governments make informed decisions about protecting public safety while wisely using tax payer dollars. 

The Vera Institute of Justice released a report in 2015 which examines the cost of jails. VERA collaborated with jail officials in six jurisdictions to develop the survey instrument they used to collect the data on all the cost associated with running a jail. The report, The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration, examines data from 35 jail jurisdictions in 18 different states. It asserts that the cost of jails is much higher than previously known. Many of the expenditures come from county and city general budgets, so they are not reflected in the jail budget. 

For example:

 "in addition to the $1.1 billion spent by the City of New York Department of Corrections in 2014, other agencies spent $1.3 billion on jail employee benefits, health care and education programs for incarcerated people, and administration, bringing the total cost to $2.4 billion."  (p5)

The outside costs typically come from (p12):

1. employee benefits;

2. inmate health care;

3. capital costs;

4. administrative costs;

5. legal judgments and claims;

6. inmate programming and other costs. 

The report goes on to say that many of the jurisdictions could not identify all the expenses covered by other govenment agencies that are incurred by their jail.

Read the full report here

Posted Wed, Feb 10 2016 9:50 AM by Elizabeth


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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.