5 States With the Most Expensive Prisoners

(Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

It’s expensive to incarcerate someone. Between the basic costs, like the cost of food and the cost of employing staff, and additional programs, like education and training initiatives and healthcare for prisoners, it adds up.

The Vera Institute of Justice analyzed the expenditures of state corrections departments and found that “among the 40 states that participated in a survey, the cost of prisons was $39 billion in fiscal year 2010.” This averages out to around $1 billion per state.

The costs, however, vary dramatically throughout the country, as some states spend far more than others on prison costs. We’ve created a list of states with the most expensive inmates. The list is ranked in order by the average cost to house each inmate, which ranges from as low as $14,000 to upwards of $60,000 annually.

All prison cost data come from the Vera Institute of Justice and FindtheBest.com. Crime statistics come from data published on InfoPlease.com.

Source: Thinkstock

Rhode Island

  • Average annual cost per prisoner: $49,133
  • Department of Corrections prison budget: $159.8 million
  • Total cost to taxpayers: $172.1 million
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants: 247.5
  • Potential reasons for high costs: Rhode Island’s prison population has been on the rise. Go Local reports, “Fiscal Year 2014 shows that the total RIDOC population was 3214, up over 3160 in 2013 — but well below the peak in 2008 at 3860.” Rhode Island also has several costs that are outside of the state corrections budget, including capital costs, inmate education costs, inmate hospital care, administrative costs, and employee retiree health care benefits. These costs add up to more than $12 million.

Source: iStock

Vermont

  • Average annual cost per prisoner: $49,502
  • Department of Corrections prison budget: $102 million
  • Total cost to taxpayers: $111.3 million
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants: 135.2
  • Potential reasons for high costs: The state has been expanding and building corrections facilities. Costs outside of the state corrections budget — like retiree health care contributions and capital costs — total $9.2 million. The average daily population in Vermont prisons is 2,248.

Source: iStock

Connecticut

  • Average annual cost per prisoner: $50,262
  • Department of Corrections prison budget: $613.3 million
  • Total cost to taxpayers: $929.4 million
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants: 272.8
  • Potential reasons for high costs: More money is going toward staffing and union contracts. The budget has grown nearly 300% since 1990, and “about 70% of the average daily cost per inmate from 2008 to 2009 went to the pay and benefits of corrections employees,” according to CIBA Government Affairs. Like Vermont and Rhode Island, Connecticut has several costs outside of the state corrections budget that total $316.2 million. The average daily population in Connecticut prisons is 18,492.

Source: Thinkstock

New Jersey

  • Average annual cost per prisoner: $54,865
  • Department of Corrections prison budget: $1.2 billion
  • Total cost to taxpayers: $1.4 billion
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants: 308.4
  • Potential reasons for high costs: Costs outside of the corrections budget total $255.5 million annually. The average daily population in New Jersey prisons is 25,822.

Source: Thinkstock

New York

  • Average annual cost per prisoner: $60,076
  • Department of Corrections prison budget: $2.7 billion
  • Total cost to taxpayers: $3.6 billion
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants: 398.1
  • Potential reasons for high costs: The average daily population in New York prisons is 59,237. According to FindtheBest.com, “One of the reasons that New York’s cost is double the national average of $31,286 per inmate is because the state is spending more on things like extra staff (two prisoners per guard), wage benefits for staff and pension costs.” Costs outside of the corrections budget total $812.5 million.

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