Annual Cost to House 1 Prisoner in California Now Costs More Than One Year at Leading University


The Liberal state of California cannot deny where their priorities lie and it’s not with educating their children. They spend more to house their prisoners annually than it cost to attend one of the nations leading universities. 

The cost to imprison each of California’s 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record high of $75,560 each in the next year. How Much? More than tuition at Harvard University. That’s enough to cover the annual cost and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer.

The prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts, once again ranked as the world’s top university for producing billionaires, according to The Wealth-X Billionaire Census 2018.

The LA Times reports:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates.


Cost Per Prisoner Has doubled Since 2005

The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard.

Since 2015, California’s per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000.

Critics say with fewer inmates, the costs should be falling.

“Now that we’re incarcerating less, we haven’t ramped the system back down,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the left-leaning California Budget & Policy Center.

For example, the corrections department has one employee for every two inmates, compared with one employee for roughly every four inmates in 1994.

Why does it cost so much?

Costs Rising Even as Prison Population Declines

California was sued over prison overcrowding, and to comply with a federal court-imposed population cap, the Brown administration now keeps most lower-level offenders in county jails instead of state prisons. Additionally, voters in 2014 reduced penalties for drug and property crimes and last fall approved the earlier releases.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said reformers falsely promised a “prison dividend” from savings related to the changes. Instead, there’s now an uptick in many crimes and he’s worried it will lead to an influx of new inmates that will cost more to house.

Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said it was “highly predictable” that per-inmate costs would increase even as the population decreased.

“We released all the low-risk, kind of low-need, and we kept in the high-risk, high-need,” she said.

Schools vs. Prisons: The $75,000 Question

Between 1980 and January 2015, California had built 22 new prisons and just one university campus in that time. It cost the state more than $62,300 per year for each non-violent offender held in custody up, and now the cost has risen to $75,000 and rising.

People who commit crimes have to be held accountable, but money spent wisely can reduce crime in the first place while contributing to a healthier California, reported.

California has been putting more money into punishment, and getting less and less in return. For every 100 people released from prison, 61 will be back in three years. The numbers just don’t add up.

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