The Cost of Prison

Powerful Essays
Faced with a glaring deficit and terrifying examples of ineffective spending around the globe, lawmakers looking for cost-saving measures would do well to turn to prisons. Prison reform must attain the lowest economic costs, lowering actual taxpayer dollars spent without giving up the benefits of attaining important social goals, which represent another form of cost when lost. Undoubtedly, the current prison system is doing little to separate the US from its international counterparts in minimizing such cost, yet prison privatization has yielded hopeful results, as private correctional facilities seem to have a striking advantage over public ones in reducing both short-term costs in terms of prison operations, and long-terms costs, in terms of lower recidivism rates through better rehabilitation. Still, the political economy involved in setting up private prisons presents increased social problems because of too much lobbying involvement and counter-cost-minimizing results. Through maintaining competition, changing the reasons why private prisons are set up and how, society can move forward to minimize economic costs.
While most all citizens recognize the need to fund and support incarceration, few realize how tremendous the costs they face truly are. The US continues to incarcerate a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world, with over 2.3 million people in prison or jail as of 2008 (John Schmitt, 2010). Last year, approximately 753 of every 100,000 people were locked up, up from just 220 in 1980 (Schmitt, 2010). This tremendous growth in imprisonment, mainly to working-aged men for violent crimes, has coincided with similarly remarkable increases in spending. From 1996 to 2001, the country witnessed “a $5½ billion increase [in spending] after adjusting for inflation”, and in the 15 year stretch between 1986 and 2001, “state correctional expenditures increased 145% in 2001 constant dollars” (James J. Stephan, 2001).



Cited: Archambeault, William G. and Deis, Donald R. Cost Effectiveness Comparison of Private vs.Public Prisons in Louisiana: A Comprehensive Analysis of Allen, Avoyelles, and Winn Correctional Centers, Dept. of Accounting, Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge, 1996. Pages: 1-3. Cohen, Mark A. The Monetary Value of Saving a High-Risk Youth. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 14, No. I. Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998. 5-10. Federal and State Prisons: Inmate Populations, Costs, and Projection Models. General Accounting Office . Letter Report GAO/GGD-97-15. 1996. Online: http://www.fas.org/irp/gao/ggd97015.htm Gruber, Jonathan. Public Finance and Public Policy. Worth Publishers New York, NY 2005. 229-230. Lanza-Kaduce, Lonn and Parker, Karen . Comparative Recidivism Analysis of Releases from Private and Public Prisons in Florida, Florida Correctional Privatization Commission. Tallahassee, 1998. 1-8, 11-12. Sanchez, Andrea Nil. Private Prisons Spend Millions On Lobbying To Put More People In Jail. Justice Policy Institute. June 2011. Online: http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/2655. Schmitt, John and Warner, Kris and Gupta, Sarika. The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Washington, D.C 2010. 8-17. South Bay Correctional Facility Provides Savings and Success; Room for Improvement. OPPAGA Private Prison Review. Report No 99-39. Tallahassee, March 2000. 1-15. Stephan, James J. State Prison Expenditures, 2001. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. US Department of Justice June 2004. Two-Thirds of Former State Prisoners Rearrested for New Crimes. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Office of Justice Programs 2011. Online: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/press/rpr94pr.cfm.

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