Mapping Cost Per Prisoner By US State

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024 - 03:20 AM

The US prison population consists of around 1.2 million inmates.

Looking at data from USAFacts obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances, which was most recently updated in June 2023, we can analyze which states have the highest and lowest expenditures of their taxpayer dollars per prisoner.

Differences in Prison Spending Vary Widely Across States

As Bruno Venditti notes via Visual Capitalist, over $80 billion is spent annually on prisons in the United States.

A large part of this is used to pay over 4,000 vendors that serve the criminal legal system, including healthcare providers and food suppliers.

At the state level, most of the budget goes for day-to-day operations, including officer salaries.

In high-wage states such as California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, officers receive double the salaries compared to those in lower-wage states like Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky.

As a result, spending can vary from just under $23,000 per prisoner in Arkansas to $307,468 in Massachusetts.

States With the Highest Incarceration Rates

Southern U.S. states have the highest imprisonment rates according to 2022 data, with Mississippi at 859 people per 100,000, Louisiana at 775, and Arkansas at 743.

Massachusetts has the lowest rate of any state, with 116 people per 100,000.