Growing Numbers – and Costs – of Federal Prisoners

The current federal prison population exceeds 217,000 and is projected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. According to a new report from the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute, “A wide array of actors – Members of Congress, administration officials, a bipartisan cast of policy advocates, and researchers – has concluded that this growth and its associated costs are unsustainable.”

That’s because the federal Bureau of Prisons has experienced a nearly tenfold increase in its population since 1980 and it is projected to receive an additional 11,500 prisoners in 2013. The bureau is currently operating at 38 percent above capacity, with 53 percent crowding at high-security facilities and 49 percent at medium-security facilities.

In addition, annual costs per inmate range from $21,000 for minimum security to nearly $34,000 for high security. As the report points out, these costs raise questions about federal sentencing and corrections policies, particularly when the annual cost of supervision by probation officers in the community is about $3,430 per offender.

To view the full report, Click here


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