New York City spent a whopping $167,000 per inmate in 2012, according to the New York Times. A new report from the city's Independent Budget Office says the most expensive neighborhood in New York City is Rikers Island.
The NYC cost per inmate is nearly three times the cost of New York State's prison system and five times as much as the national average, according to the Vera Institute for Justice.
Michael P. Jacobson, the director of the City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance and a former city correction and probation commissioner, said part of the reason the city’s cost was so high was because it had a richly staffed system. “The inmate-to-staff ratio probably hovers around two prisoners for every guard,” he said.
The budget office said 83 percent of the expense per prisoner came from wages, benefits for staff and pension costs.
Jacobson noted the success in reducing the NYC jail population—from a peak of about 23,000 in 1993 to about 12,000 people today—but said the fixed costs were not likely to go down soon.
Still, he said, there were things that could be done to save money, like reducing the amount of time people sat in jail awaiting trial. Some 76 percent of the inmates in the city were waiting for their cases to be disposed, according to the budget office.
The wait times have grown even as the number of felonies committed in the city has declined.
Since 2002, the time spent waiting for cases to be disposed of has increased to 95 days, from 76 days said Jacobson.
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