Pennsylvania’s Prisons Cost $2.1 Billion Each Year

Filed under: Criminal Law by Contributor @ December 30, 2013

Keeping prisons running is expensive and funded solely by taxpayer dollars. But do you know exactly how much it costs to keep Pennsylvania’s prisons running? The Vera Institute of Justice conducted a study of the costs to run prisons in 2010 and determined that the total cost of all prisons in Pennsylvania is $2.1 billion each year, at a cost of $42,339 per inmate. With costs of incarceration so high, many are pushing for the increased use of reform- and rehabilitation-based alternatives to incarceration. Below is a breakdown of the expenses (numbers are in millions):

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections budget     $1,591.4
Inmate health care                                                                  $231.7
Underfunded pensions                                                          $120.1
Inmate education and spending                                        $41.3
Underfunded retiree health care                                      $35.4
Statewide administrative costs                                          $35.3
TOTAL                                                                 $2,055.3

A full fact sheet detailing the costs to run Pennsylvania’s prisons can be found here: http://www.vera.org/files/price-of-prisons-pennsylvania-fact-sheet.pdf.
The real question becomes, at these costs, can we afford to keep anyone in prison when there are other less expensive alternatives available? For drug addicts, might tax dollars be better spent funding rehabilitation? We can then incarcerate those for whom that does not work. Do we really need to put an 18 year old Villanova student behind bars for two years for selling a dime bag of weed on campus? That’s the mandatory minimum sentence and it happens all the time in Delaware County – at a cost of $85,000.00 to the state – and ultimately the taxpayers. We aren’t saying we need to do away with prisons, but there is certainly room to make more judicious use of them. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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