Cost of Corrections

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-21-12

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-21-12.

Question of the Week: How much does the U.S. Corrections system cost taxpayers?

With April 15th upon us, this is a reasonable question, considering that there are over 7 million Americans currently under the control of the U.S. Corrections system. Their “price tag” includes:

  • Total 2008 spending in the U.S. on corrections: $75 billion
  • Spending in 2010 on state corrections: $51 billion
  • 2009 spending on the 767,000 inmates in local jails: $20 billion
  • The 2011 budget for the federal Bureau of Prisons: $6.8 billion
  • 2009 spending on the 242,000 inmates in state prison with a drug conviction as their most serious offense: $6.3 billion
  • 2009 spending on the 4.2 million individuals on probation: $5.5 billion
  • Spending in 2009 on 171,000 inmates in federal prison: $4.3 billion
  • 2009 spending on the 95,000 federal inmates for whom a drug conviction is their most serious offense: $2.4 billion

Unfortunately, these staggering billion dollar “price tags” take a snapshot of only one year. Over the decades, their financial burden on taxpayers has increased exponentially.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, points to a solution:

“… a 50 percent reduction in non-violent-offender inmates would save the federal government about $2.1 billion per year, state governments about $7.6 billion per year, and local governments about $7.2 billion per year … these savings total $16.9 billion or about 22.8 percent of the total national spending on corrections.”

Non-violent offenders basically mean drug offenders.

Ending drug war would clearly reduce the cost of corrections and ultimately the “price tag” borne by taxpayers.