Jails are far more expensive than previously understood, as significant jail expenditures—such as employee benefits, health care and education programs for incarcerated people, and general administration—are often not reflected in jail budgets, but rather in other county agencies. This report surveys 35 jail jurisdictions in 18 states to tally the actual price of their jails—and discovered that the untallied cost of jail can be sizable. More than 20 percent of jail costs were outside the jail budget in nearly a quarter of the surveyed jurisdictions.
The surest way to safely cut jail costs is to reduce the number of people who enter and stay there. In doing so, jurisdictions will be able to save resources and make investments necessary to address the health and social service needs of their communities.
As government leaders and the public question whether jail is being used cost-effectively to meet a community’s safety and justice needs, they need to understand what the total costs are. The methodology developed for this study can serve as a tool to do that.
The annual cost, per incarcerated individual, averaged $47,057 in the 35 jurisdictions that responded to Vera’s survey.
Payroll expenses comprise 74 percent of the total cost of jails.
The cost of jails, nationwide, has grown four-fold between 1983 and 2011—from $5.7 billion to 22.2 billion.
U.S. jails now hold more than 730,000 people on any given day—more than triple their population in 1983.
There were nearly 12 million jail admissions in the U.S. in 2013
Jails house 1/3 of the country’s incarcerated population on any given day.
“Just Call Me Bala”
Remembering Malar Balasubramanian, 1976 - 2017
While Malar will be remembered for her generous and infectious spirit, she also serves as a reminder that mental health can be a lifelong struggle. Understanding issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide. If you see warning si...
The Community Reimagines
Vera @ Chicago Ideas - Part III
The Vera Institute of Justice teamed up with Chicago Ideas to reenvision the American prison system and imagine a society in which prisons serve as rehabilitation facilities for communities and citizens, rather than as crippling institutions. The conversations combined performance, first-person testimony, and compelling dialogue that looked into no...
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
Vera @ Chicago Ideas - Part II
The Vera Institute of Justice teamed up with Chicago Ideas to reenvision the American prison system, and imagine a society in which prisons serve as rehabilitation facilities for communities and citizens, rather than as crippling institutions. The conversation will combined performance, first-person testimony, and compelling dialogue that all looke...