22b) Incarcerations – what is it costing
By Christian Henrichson and Ruth Delaney
Staff from Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections and Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit developed a methodology to calculate the taxpayer cost of prisons, including costs outside states’ corrections budgets. Among the 40 states that participated in a survey, the cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2010, $5.4 billion more than what their corrections budgets reflected. States’ costs outside their corrections departments ranged from less than 1 percent of total prison costs in Arizona to as much as 34 percent in Connecticut. The full report provides the taxpayer cost of incarcerating a sentenced adult offender to state prison in 40 states, presents the methodology, and concludes with recommendations about steps policy makers can take to safely rein in these costs. Fact sheets provide details about each of the states that participated in Vera’s survey.”
Extrapolating the above for all 50 states would the overall cost 5 years ago at just under $50,000,000,000! How do you feel about that tax payer invoice?
Exactly why do we have so many inmates?
““Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” The person who said that was neither a defense lawyer, nor a prisoners’-rights advocate, nor a European looking down his nose across the Atlantic. It was instead America’s top law-enforcement official, Eric Holder, the attorney general. On Monday Mr Holder announced several changes to federal prison policy, the most important of which was that federal prosecutors will no longer charge low-level, non-violent drug offenders with crimes that trigger “draconian” mandatory-minimum sentences. But how did America’s prison population become so unmanageably huge? Probably the biggest driver of this growth has been ever-harsher drug penalties. In response to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, Congress and state legislatures began passing laws that meted out mandatory-minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. These were intended to help nab major traffickers, but the sentences were triggered by the possession of tiny quantities of drugs: five grams of crack, for instance, resulted in a mandatory-minimum sentence of five years. Conspiracy laws made everyone involved in a drug-running operation legally liable for all of the operation’s activities: a child hired for a few dollars a day to act as a lookout at the door of a crack house was on the hook for all the drugs sold in that house and all the crimes associated with their sale. These sorts of laws kept America’s prison population growing even as its crime rate declined.”
” Federal: “Between 2001 and 2013, more than half of prisoners serving sentences of more than a year in federal facilities were convicted of drug offenses. On September 30, 2013 (the end of the most recent fiscal year for which federal offense data were available), 98,200 inmates (51% of the federal prison population) were imprisoned for possession, trafficking, or other drug crimes.”
The rates are even higher for sentences under a year. To make matters worse the rate of recidivism is much higher for drug offenders. It’s the proverbial “revolving door”. We kick these inmates to the curb when they are released with a cheap pre-paid cell phone and $100 and expect them to reenter society as a productive tax payer. Obviously this is not working!
stay tuned next week on more on this