Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza
“[W]e are spending more and more money to incarcerate fewer and fewer people and reducing the safety of both officers and people in custody in the process,” Comptroller Stringer said.
By Forum Staff
New York City spent an average of $447,337 per every incarcerated individual in FY 2020—a 30-percent increase over the previous year—even as rates of fight and assault infractions in City jails rose by 27 percent, according to an analysis recently released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
This year’s watch list report on the City Department of Correction highlighted the following data:
Budget and Spending
The DOC budget declined 7 percent from $1.37 billion in FY 2017 to $1.28 billion in FY 2020 and is forecast to decrease by an additional 11 percent to $1.14 billion in FY 2021.
Uniformed headcount has also fallen, dropping 15 percent from 10,862 in FY 2017 to 9,181 in FY 2020. The City forecasts that the number of correction officers will fall by an additional 23 percent during FY 2021, reaching 7,060 officers by the end of June 2021. However, as of the end of November 2020, headcount was down just 3 percent, to 8,871.
Overtime expenses have decreased – falling 44 percent from FY 2017 to FY 2020, as overtime per uniformed officer dropped by 37 percent from $22,131 in FY 2017 to $13,869 in FY 2020.
Census, Staffing and Cost
Annual admissions to city jails and the average daily population have dropped substantially in recent years. During FY 2020, the population averaged 5,841, a decline of 26 percent from the prior year and 39 percent below FY 2017. Total admissions to jail were down 60 percent, dropping from 58,226 in FY 2017 to 23,317 in FY 2020.
For the first four months of FY 2021 (July-October 2020), as the city began to ease COVID-19 restrictions, the daily population averaged 4,193, a further decline of 28 percent from FY 2020.
As of FY 2020, DOC employed 1.6 correction officers and spent an average of $217,043 for every incarcerated person.
In FY 2020, the City spent an additional $230,294 in non-DOC costs for each person in custody, including expenses for employee fringe benefits and pensions and health care services provided by other agencies, bringing the full annual cost of incarceration to $447,337 per person.
Violent Incidents and Use of Force
Violence in City jails rose in FY 2019 and again in FY 2020. From FY 2019 to FY 2020, the rate of fight and assault infractions rose by 27 percent and the rate of violent incidents among the jail population rose by 16 percent. Assaults on staff have also increased with the rate rising 26 percent in FY 2020.
The rate of incidents and allegations of use of force has also grown sharply, nearly doubling from FY 2018 to FY 2020.
“The cost to incarcerate a single individual on Rikers has exploded even as our jail population remains near historic lows – yet rates of violence continue to climb. That means we are spending more and more money to incarcerate fewer and fewer people and reducing the safety of both officers and people in custody in the process. We must reimagine our criminal legal system, dramatically reduce the pretrial population, and invest our taxpayer dollars in the resources and programs—from housing to health care—that prevent incarceration in the first place,” Stringer said.