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Paying the price of mass incarceration

by Leah Sakala, May 23, 2014

While working on an upcoming report, I set out to find the answer to a relatively straightforward question: What is the direct fiscal cost of incarceration in the United States?

The answer, it turns out, was not readily available. So I started to pull some sources. Here’s what I found for correctional expenses in 2010:

This means that the U.S.’s incarceration tab in 2010 came out to a whopping $82.4 billion.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s also a significant underestimate for two important reasons:

  1. This figure does not include expenses related to law enforcement, courts, or other pieces of the mass incarceration pie, such as the immigration detention system.
  2. This figure also does not include the huge and unquantifiable social price of overcriminalization, which falls on the shoulders of families, communities, and future generations.

One Response

  1. Three massive new briefings from the Prison Policy Initiative | Prison Policy Initiative says, 5 days, 23 hours after publication:

    […] spend about $82.4 billion every year — not to mention the significant social cost — to lock up nearly 1% of our […]

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