Housing Prisoners in California Now More Expensive than Sending Them to Harvard
The LA Times recently reported that the cost of housing each inmate in the California prison system will cost $75,560 per year. This is 20 percent higher than the cost of attending Harvard College, based on Harvard estimates for room, board and tuition.
Cost of Housing Prisoners Doubled Since 2005
Interestingly, housing prisoners in California is now twice as expensive as it was in 2005. The cost surged in 2015, increasing nearly $10,000 or 13 percent from the prior year. The biggest cost drivers are prison staff salaries. For example, today, the California corrections department employs about one person per two inmates. In 1994, this ratio was one employee to four inmates.
Governor Jerry Brown allocated an $11.4 billion budget towards the California’s corrections department. The budget goes into effect on July 1, 2017. Although the cost of housing prisoners is higher than ever before, experts project 11,500 fewer inmates within four years. Chris Hoene, executive director of the left-leaning California Budget & Policy Center, stated:
“Now that we’re incarcerating less, we haven’t ramped the system back down.”
Joan Petersilia, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, added:
“We released all the low-risk, kind of low-need, and we kept in the high-risk, high-need.”
Incarcerations in the U.S.
In many states, low-level offenders are kept in county jails so state jails adhere to federal prison population caps. Yet, state prisons continue to remain full due to federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. States first implemented these guidelines in the 1980s. Since then, the U.S. prison population exploded. The image below shows some interesting trends for incarcerations in the U.S.
What do you think? Is the system focused on fair and just detention of criminals, or are we just feeding the prison industrial complex?
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
Sources sited within the article.
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