Housing an Inmate in a Calif. Prison Costs More Than Tuition for a Year at Harvard University


There are 130,000 inmates in California’s prison system, and under Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the cost of housing them is expected to reach a record $75,560, which is more than the annual cost of attending Harvard University.


Brown’s plan includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department, even with a predicted reduction of 11,500 in four years after voters approved earlier releases for some inmates, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the cost per inmate has doubled since 2005, even with courts releasing inmates because of overcrowding; much of the increase is because of salaries and benefits for guards and medical personnel.

California’s cost per inmate is the nation’s highest, followed by New York with an overall cost of $69,000, according to the report.

Critics, including Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget and Policy Center, say that with fewer inmates, the cost should actually be lowering.

“Now that we’re incarcerating less, we haven’t ramped the system back down,” Hoene said.

The corrections department currently has one employee for every two inmates. In 1994 it was one employee for roughly every four inmates.


Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, told the Times 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,” Petersilia said.


Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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