Cost of Incarceration at All-Time High

Cost of Incarceration at All-Time High

Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Dermot Shea is the 44th police commissioner of NYC.

By Forum Staff

The City spends a record high $337,524 to incarcerate one person for a full year, or $925 per day—an 85-percent increase since 2014, according to a new analysis of the Department of Correction released Friday by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

At the same time, Stringer noted, while the DOC’s budget declined for the first time in recent history, falling $60 million to about $1.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2019, an additional $1.3 billion was spent on jail-related expenses outside the DOC budget—including employee fringe benefits and pension contributions, and correctional health care services.

And violent incidents continue to rise disproportionately to the declining incarcerated population, Stringer reported. In FY 2019, the rate of fight and assault infractions per incarcerated person rose by 12 percent, while the rate of assaults on staff rose by 37 percent and the rate of use of force rose by 42 percent.

As the average daily jail population fell by 41 percent over the past decade, the raw number of fight and assault infractions in jail went up by 79 percent and the raw number of incidents and allegations of correction officer use of force on incarcerated individuals more than tripled.

The number of tort claims filed for personal injury at a correctional facility has nearly quadrupled to 3,894 in FY 2018 from 1,061 in FY 2008.

While the incarcerated population has decreased to 7,938 in FY 2019 from 8,896 in FY 2018, the share of the population designated by DOC as having a propensity to violence has increased disproportionately. From FY 2014 to FY 2019, the share of the jail population identified by DOC as a “security risk” increased from 8.2 percent to 16.4 percent, as the share of the population with a mental health diagnosis grew from 38 percent to 45 percent.

The analysis is the Comptroller’s 6th annual update of DOC spending and performance trends. The report uses budget data, claims against the City, reports of violence in City jails, and personnel data to analyze DOC operations.

Stringer noted that as the City moves to construct four new jail facilities in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan, and implement sweeping changes to bail, discovery, and speedy trial laws, the report’s findings “underscore the continued financial and personal costs” of the current jail system.

“It’s time to fundamentally transform our criminal justice system—and key to that is an efficient corrections system committed to safety and rehabilitation. Although our jail system has shrunk, this analysis shows that the system has not changed, as spending, violence, and the use of force continue to rise disproportionately. For long-term savings—and the long-term good of our City—we must start seeing better all-around outcomes as our jail population declines,” the comptroller said. “Our vastly reduced jail population should be yielding significant savings that we can reinvest in communities and strategies that keep our jail population as small as possible and turn the page from decades of mass incarceration. We have far more work to do.”

Photo Courtesy of Comptroller Stringer’s Office



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