Dec. 9, 2019 By Allie Griffin
New York City spends $925 a day per inmate — or $337,524 per inmate annually — to house prisoners in city jails, according to a report based on Department of Corrections (DOC) data.
The cost rose to an all-time high for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, according to a report released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer Friday. It represents an 85 percent increase since 2014.
The heavy price tag is offset by the decline in the prison population. The average daily city jail population decreased by 11 percent from 8,896 in FY 2018 to 7,938 in FY 2019. In the past decade, the average daily jail population has declined by 41 percent, according to the analysis.
While the DOC’s budget declined for the first time in recent history, additional jail-related expenses outside that budget continued to grow and added to the cost of housing inmates in city jails.
In FY 2019, the City funded an additional $1.3 billion in jail-related expenses outside the budget, including employee fringe benefits and pension contributions and correctional health care services, the report states.
Jarringly, the comptroller said, the smaller jail population hasn’t resulted in a decrease in violent incidents inside city prisons. In fact, violence between inmates and between inmates and guards has instead increased.
Over the past 10 years, the number of fight and assault infractions in city jails went up by 79 percent and the number of incidents and allegations of correction officers’ use of force on inmates more than tripled, the report states.
Last fiscal year, the rate of fight and assault infractions per incarcerated person rose by 12 percent, while the rate of assaults on staff rose by 37 percent and the rate of use of force rose by 42 percent, according to the Comptroller’s report.
The violent incidents continue to rise, despite an increase in the number of correction officers.
Officers outnumber the average daily population. In the most recent fiscal year, there were 1.25 officers for every incarcerated person, according to the analysis.
“It’s time to fundamentally transform our criminal justice system — and key to that is an efficient corrections system committed to safety and rehabilitation,” Stringer said. “Although our jail system has shrunk, this analysis shows that the system has not changed, as spending, violence, and the use of force continue to rise disproportionately.”
The current city jail population is about 7,000 people. The City believes the number will drop to 3,300 inmates by 2026 when it shutters the infamous Rikers Island and transfers inmates to four new borough-based jails.
“For long-term savings — and the long-term good of our City — we must start seeing better all-around outcomes as our jail population declines,” Stringer said. “Our vastly reduced jail population should be yielding significant savings that we can reinvest in communities and strategies that keep our jail population as small as possible and turn the page from decades of mass incarceration.”