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.
Accounting for Violence
How to Increase Safety and Break Our Failed Reliance on Mass Incarceration
In the United States, violence and mass incarceration are deeply entwined, though evidence shows that both can decrease at the same time. A new vision is needed to meaningfully address violence and reduce the use of incarceration—and to promote healing among crime survivors and improve public safety. This report describes four principles to guide p...
Report to the New York City Housing Authority
Applying and Lifting Permanent Exclusions for Criminal Conduct
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is conducting an internal review of its policies related to permanent exclusions for criminal conduct on NYCHA property. Permanent exclusion (PE) occurs when a NYCHA tenant—rather than risk eviction—enters into a stipulation that those associated with the resident who have engaged in non-desirable behavi...
Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails
Why We’re Studying the Causes and Consequences of Solitary Confinement
Every day, tens of thousands of incarcerated people are held in restrictive housing (commonly known as “solitary confinement” or “segregation”) in America’s prisons and jails. Confined to a cell no larger than a parking space for at least 23 hours a day, isolated from social interaction, and deprived of sensory stimulation, the effect on the menta...