Jul 03 2010

How Much Does It Cost to Incarcerate a Youth?


I’ll give you three chances to guess how much it costs to incarcerate ONE youth in Illinois…  What were your guesses?  Well it costs $78,000 to keep a young person in jail for a year in Illinois.  If you gasped, you are not alone.  This is particularly stupid because we KNOW that incarceration does NOT work.  It just serves to make youth into better criminals.

On the other hand, three to six months of multisystem therapy costs only between $6,800 and $10,000 per youth.  Tuition at the University of Illinois would cost under $10,000.  For all of the “conservatives” who would like to decrease the budget deficits at the state and local levels, they should be loudly advocating for decarceration and a focus on community-based alternatives.  That would be the appropriate “conservative response.”  Yet no one has ever accused the right of being consistent in their arguments.

States spent about $5.7 billion in 2007 to imprison 64,558 youth committed to residential facilities.  The per diem costs of locking up on young person in a juvenile facility ranges from $24 in Wyoming to $726 in Connecticut, but the American Correctional Association estimates that, on average, it costs states $240.99 per day — around $88,000 a year — for every youth in a juvenile facility.  If you are interested in more such facts, the Justice Policy Institute published a good report last year called the costs of confinement.  The report makes the point that states needlessly spend billions of dollars a year incarcerating nonviolent youth.  These young people could to be safely supported in the community instead.