Vera by the Numbers: Budget Justice

  • Jails cost the United States $25 billion a year.
  • Since 2011, jail budgets have increased 13 percent—accounting for inflation—while jail populations have declined 28 percent.
  • Local governments in the 48 places that Vera studied in its What Jails Cost report could save $2.2 billion if they rightsized their jail budgets, and even more as jail populations decline further.
  • Vera found $600 million in cost savings opportunities in the New York State criminal legal system.
Jail populations have fallen significantly in many places around the country, and crime has dropped as well. But spending on jails continues increasing. Counties should be cutting jail spending and reinvesting those savings in communities most impacted by mass incarceration. By diverting jail savings to social services and infrastructure, counties could build safer, more stable communities.

Sandra van den Heuvel
Senior Program Associate, Vera Insights