Some Statistics on the Cost of Federal Prisoners

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued a statement indicating what everyone else already knows- continuing to increase prison populations is getting extremely expensive and is unsustainable in the current economic environment (or any other realistic environment for that matter). The DOJ asked the United States Sentencing Commission to try to reduce the costs associated with federal prisons. The report did not, however, indicate how they expected the costs to be reduced.

The report did come with some sobering statistics about our federal prison population. The conclusion is that regardless of whatever our politicians want to tell us about how conservative they are and how they want to reduce the size of government, government keeps getting bigger and bigger and more and more money is wasted.

In 1980, there were only 19,000 prisoners with fewer than 25% there for drug crimes. By 2010, there were 190,000 federal prisoners with more than 50% being there for drug crimes. That is what happens when you wage a wasteful and self-defeating war on drugs. The other thing that happens is the government, i.e. the taxpayers, pays a lot of money to keep this ineffective system going. Expenditures on the state, local and federal levels increased from $32.6 billion in 1984 to $186.2 billion in 2006. We are not asking anyone to hold his/her breath, but with the country in debt and terrible shape economically, maybe someone somewhere will understand that spending so much money on ineffective policies is not the best use of taxpayer money.

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