State taxpayers pay, on average, 14 percent more on prisons than corrections department budgets reflect, according to a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice. The report, “The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers,” found that among the 40 states that responded to a survey, the total fiscal year 2010 taxpayer cost of prisons was $38.8 billion, $5.4 billion more than in state corrections budgets for that year. When all costs are considered, the annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,166 per inmate.
Vera says the report marks the first time these costs have been quantified for prisons across the states. To calculate the total price of prisons, Vera developed a survey tool that tallied costs outside corrections budgets. The most common of these costs were fringe benefits, underfunded contributions for corrections employees’ pension and retiree health care plans, inmate health care, capital projects, legal costs, and inmate education and training. The scale of the expenditures outside of corrections departments ranged from less than 1 percent of the total cost of Arizona‘s prison budget to as much as 34 percent in Connecticut.