Federal Prison Inmate Headcount Declines for Third Straight Year

Declining prison populations may eventually help alleviate the effects of overcrowding. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) reported last month that during Fiscal Year 2016 — which closed at the end of September — the number of federal inmates in its facilities declined for the third consecutive year. The 192,170 inmates in BOP facilities as

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Sandra Bland case highlights need for stronger oversight at local level

As more troubling details regarding the untimely death of Sandra Bland emerge, it’s clear that being under police custody is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to be. On the heels of the deaths of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner, and following in the tradition of Maricopa County’s trail of deaths, Bland’s experiences both during her

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Why Overcrowded Prisons May Not Be a Priority for States

By Christopher Zoukis

Prison Overcrowding: A Cause Which has Terrible Effects

Overcrowded prisons represent a serious social and penological problem in the United States.  They’re a safety issue — putting a strain on prison employees, making it more difficult to monitor inmate behavior and control the wanton violence inside our nation’s prisons.  They’re a sanitary issue — potentially shoving inmates into even more dangerous, less desirable, and less humane conditions.  They also pose a rehabilitation issue, as less money can be spent on trying to help inmates resolve what ails them and further exasperating the damaging internal prison culture.

Even with all of these obvious problems, some states actually see prison overcrowding as a fiscal advantage.  A report released by the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission claims that overcrowded prisons may actually save the states money, even if at the expense of reduced inmate misconduct, crime, and victimization.

Assuming the Same Prisoners, Costs Decrease

The average cost per inmate in Ohio is about $60 per day.  This cost includes staffing, maintenance, and other expenses that occur when operating a prison.  Sixty dollars per day adds up very quickly and costs the state millions of dollars every year, many millions.

For every open bunk in prison, the state of Ohio saves roughly $60 (slightly less, but the number varies depending on the prison’s population versus operational capacity).  This would indicate that it is in the state’s best interest to avoid overcrowding.  After all, every open bunk is a revolving expense that fulfills no purpose.

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