Three advocacy groups issued a report arguing that misguided criminal justice policies wasted $3.4 trillion over three decades that could have been used to address the root causes of crime and meet critical community needs. The report was compiled by Communities United, Make the Road New York, and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos. It analyzes U.S. investments in police, prisons, jails, prosecutors, and immigration enforcement. The report says that between 1982 to 2012, the U.S. increased spending on the justice system from $90 billion annually to nearly $297 billion, a 229 percent increase.
During that period, the nation spent $3.4 trillion more on the justice system than it would have if spending had remained steady since 1982, say the groups. One result is that about 1 in 40 U.S. residents is either in prison, in jail, on probation or parole, or otherwise under control of the justice system. The report says that in 1982, each household in the U.S. paid an average of $1,076 for justice system costs. By 2012, each household was paying an average of $2,557, almost $1,500 more. The largest category of justice spending – 45 percent of the total – is on policing.