Why Are Jail Costs Rising, Even As Crime Rate Falls?

A Governing article examines troubling trends in local correctional costs nationally, including trends that affect Maryland facilities.

Crime rates have gone down in recent decades, but facility costs and mandates have prevented the overall spending on local jails from dropping during that same period. A Governing magazine evaluation reaches this, and related conclusions, after reviewing the fiscal status of local jails nationwide:

In a report released last month, the Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed local jail costs, primarily between 2007 and 2017. By taking expenditure data gathered from various federal agencies, they found that local jails had grown extremely expensive. Finding ways to reduce this spending could be one way to dampen COVID-induced budget cuts and furloughs.

Over the last several decades, local governments have greatly increased correctional spending. In 1977, localities spent just $5 billion on both jails and other corrections, whereas they spent six times that amount four decades later. In 2017, local governments spent $25 billion on jails alone. In fact, jail costs now account for large swaths of correctional funding.

Read the Pew Trusts report, providing much of the data used in the Governing article:

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties
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