The budget for New York City’s Department of Correction has hit an “all-time high” in the 2017 fiscal year, despite one of the lowest inmate populations on record in more than 30 years, according to a new report.
An analysis released by city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer’s office says the city’s DOC budget to run jails including Rikers rocketed to $1.36 billion in the 2017 fiscal year — up 44 percent since the 2007 fiscal year.
The average cost per inmate has reached more than $143,000, according to the report, which is a 112 percent increase over the last decade.
Along with the DOC’s annual cost per inmate, the report notes that there are additional costs funded outside of the DOC budget, including things like pension costs and medical services. When adding those to the DOC budget, the annual cost per inmate jumps to more than $270,800 — or $742 per inmate, per day.
These cost increases have occurred, the Comptroller’s office notes, as the city’s inmate population has dropped, falling to a 34-year-low of $9,500. A decade ago, the average daily inmate population was 14,000.
“An extraordinary decline in inmates should yield cost-savings and better all-around outcomes – not dramatic spending increases. That’s what’s so alarming about the numbers,” Stringer said in a statement. “We have to do better, and as this analysis makes clear, we’re putting far more money into far fewer inmates.”
Stringer suggested closing Rikers “on a quick timeline” and taking a “21st-century approach to criminal justice” as a way for the DOC to improve.
Some of these cost increases have come from an increase in security measures and new training, which Stringer notes are “laudable goals,” but have yet yielded improvements.
There are more uniformed employees than inmates in the DOC system, and yet this fiscal year has seen an increase in inmate fights and assaults on staff. Fight and assault infractions increased 16 percent from the year before, and inmate assaults went up 6 percent.
Nationally, the average cost per inmate in Fiscal Year 2015 was about 32,000 or $87 per day, according to the federal Prisons Bureau.