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At $75,560, Housing a Prisoner in California Now Costs More Than a Year at Harvard (latimes.com) 333

The cost of imprisoning each of California's 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year, the AP reported. From the article: That's enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer Gov. Jerry Brown's spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years (alternative source) because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates. The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase. The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation's highest -- and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard. Since 2015, California's per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000.
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At $75,560, Housing a Prisoner in California Now Costs More Than a Year at Harvard

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:42PM (#54563027)

    We'll pay to put people in prison, yet we won't pay to educate people. Maybe it's just me, but perhaps, just perhaps this nation has its priorities backwards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are they suggesting that Harvard students should be housed in California prisons?

      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:54PM (#54563177) Homepage Journal

        Then they'd refer to it as the slahmah.

      • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:10PM (#54563321) Homepage

        Are they suggesting that Harvard students should be housed in California prisons?

        That wouldn't be a bad idea. A 1978 documentary, Scared Straight! [amzn.to], had a group of juvenile delinquents meet harden convicts who scared the crap out of them to convince that a life of crime doesn't pay. Such an experience for the graduating class of Harvard might convince future Wall Street traders and politicians to be more ethical in their dealings.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          A 1978 documentary, href="http://amzn.to/2sAK1ft">Scared Straight!, had a group of juvenile delinquents meet harden convicts who scared the crap out of them to convince that a life of crime doesn't pay. Such an experience for the graduating class of Harvard might convince future Wall Street traders and politicians to be more ethical in their dealings.

          Why? They are not at any measurable risk of going to prison - prison is for the poor or middle class.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            Why? They are not at any measurable risk of going to prison - prison is for the poor or middle class.

            Call it sensitivity training then.

        • by Shimbo ( 100005 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:48PM (#54563683)

          Are they suggesting that Harvard students should be housed in California prisons?

          That wouldn't be a bad idea. A 1978 documentary, Scared Straight! [amzn.to], had a group of juvenile delinquents meet harden convicts who scared the crap out of them to convince that a life of crime doesn't pay.

          Unfortunately "Scared Straight!" is a textbook case of an idea that sounds good in theory and makes good TV but when you do do proper controlled trials you discover that it is worse than useless: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          I don't think so. Unless they are massively stupid, Wall Street traders and politicians do not get sent to prison.

      • well, they'd get a taste of the diversity that the school constantly crows about.

    • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:47PM (#54563093) Homepage
      Getting tough is easier than getting smart when it comes to getting votes.
    • We pay a lot for education but what are we getting for the dollars?

      The problem is not the funding. Funding has been going through the roof for 50 years.

      Re prisons

      1. how about finding other ways to punish besides prison
      2. how about decriminalizing drugs, prostitution and gambling.

      keep prison for rapists and murders and thieves
    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:56PM (#54563197)
      goes to education. Most of the money spent at a private prison goes to the people running the prison. Our priorities are just fine, provided you run a private prison and/or own stock in one.
      • Actually, as the article states, most of the money goes to prison guards and health care.

        What was missed is that the prison guards union is generally considered to be the most powerful political spender in the state. The get what they ask for very routinely. Their pay increases have regularly run way ahead of inflation. Clearly money well spent!

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Speak for yourself, but you couldn't pay me enough to be a prison guard so long as there are other jobs going.
          Why shouldn't we pay them a fraction of a stockbrokers pay? On the other hand why are we paying those stockbrokers so much when it's so much easier to find someone to do that job and they don't need as much training?
          • The prison guard unions have funded ballot initiatives to lengthen sentences and send more people to prison. So it isn't just a matter of how much they are paid, but how many of them we need. California has way too many people in prison, and way too many prison guards.

            Also, the biggest problem with guard compensation is not salaries but pensions. Pensions are based on "final year salary" so what they do is cram an extra thousand hours of overtime into their last year, wildly inflating their pay, and guar

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wisnoskij ( 1206448 )

      It is all about priorities. If you don't pay to put people in prison, you get a pile of dead people. If you don't pay to send people to university, the person just enters the job marker earlier and in general does has better economic statistics.

    • It's pretty simple really. You can forcibly imprison people, but you can't force them to learn or become productive members of society.

    • American style capitalism says everything gets cheaper, better, more efficient through privatization.

      Except when it doesn't.

      Maybe it time you shook off your irrational fear of "socialism" and let the government take care of a few things that make sense to be handled by the government.

      • American style capitalism says everything gets cheaper, better, more efficient through privatization. ... Except when it doesn't.

        Aside from the potential for competition, that assumes a that the buyers are somewhat sensitive to changes in price. Under normal circumstances that would be a safe assumption, but when the buyer is the government, and spending other people's money, there is very little price sensitivity on the buyer's side to keep prices in check. The seller, of course, is going to charge whatever they can get away with, and the government has no real incentive to bargain or look for cheaper solutions. The inevitable outco

    • You probably mean to say "we'll pay to put people in prison, but we won't actually PUNISH them", right?

      Because $75,000 is *not* what it costs for an individual to live in a cement cell in the ground, get served shitty food, and work on a chain gang 365 days a year.

    • The US does pay for educating people through secondary school.

      Well over half of prison inmates did not successfully compete their free, government-funded education.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      We need better educated criminals.

    • Supporting each of approximately 8,000 homeless persons in San Francisco costs about $30,000 or $250 million total; presumably other cities' costs are similar. (Source: homeless censuses and San Francisco budgetary estimates, not including emergency medical services.)

      Either government human services are not cheap -- or Harvard is.

    • We'll pay to put people in prison, yet we won't pay to educate people. Maybe it's just me, but perhaps, just perhaps this nation has its priorities backwards.

      No, it's not just you: plenty of people hold such stupid beliefs and make such trite statements.

      Fact is that the US spends massively on education. Our per pupil spending is among the highest in the world. Yet, there is little relationship between spending and student performance/outcomes.

      Spending insane amounts of money on incarceration in California d

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:49PM (#54563113)

    That's enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer Gov.

    What's beer gov?

    • How long have you been following politics that you still wonder whether they're drunk?

    • That's enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer Gov.

      What's beer gov?

      It's when you drink before voting. The US tried it last year, and look how great everything's turning out!

      • It was your first election cycle?

        There hasn't been a major party candidate worth voting for in my lifetime. It's always vote against the worst one.

    • It's fermented grains infused with hops, gov.
  • Expected (Score:5, Informative)

    by mesterha ( 110796 ) <chris.mesterharm ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:12PM (#54563335) Homepage
    While we pay too much to keep people in prison. (And spiteful people seem to want to keep them there.) The changes in California are not unreasonable. They show a 6% yearly increase. Given that the prison population is shrinking, it's not surprising that the fixed costs that are built into the system are going to give a number that is higher than inflation, which is about 2% over that timespan.
  • by acrimonious howard ( 4395607 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:12PM (#54563345)
    The solution has already been demonstrated very well, it's called restorative justice [businessinsider.com].
    • Yeah, but this might happen... [neatorama.com]

      Staff forgot to lock up inmates

      On Friday night, staff at Norrtalje prison forgot to lock up six inmates in their cells, three of whom are convicted murderers.

      The inmates took their chance by baking chocolate cake and watching TV.

      "It was one of the most enjoyable evenings we've had in a long time," said one of the inmates.

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:13PM (#54563347) Homepage Journal

    When I found out the King County budget was exploding, it turned out a lot of that was for enforcement, trials, juries, and prison for people who were using MJ.

    We slashed our budget by making MJ arrests the lowest enforcement priority in Seattle and Tacoma.

    Then we legalized MJ and MMJ statewide.

    California will soon do this as well.

    It's a "crime" that is almost entirely enforced on black and brown folks even though most users and dealers are actually white.

    And then they have prison records, so they can't work.

    By pardoning everyone and removing these "convictions" from their records, we increase the GDP and get more people working and paying taxes.

    Same for California. Same for Canada.

  • The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005

    Is this one of those cases where the budget was fixed, and the number of inmates decreased, thereby making it look like the price of keeping an inmate increased? The summary itself says that the inmate population decreased by one-quarter, but at the same time the budget is the highest ever.

  • some people are in for the free doctors

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @05:25PM (#54563475) Homepage Journal

    Prison guards' Union, for some weird reason, wields great power in California state legislature and the politicians generally just give them whatever they want.

  • Prisons are a business, Anyone thinking otherwise is incredibly uneducated on how the USA does things in the legal system.

  • Or Yale? [dilbert.com]

  • Isn't California in the middle of a multi-year effort to reduce the size of its prison population? And didn't they just pass a proposition to increase the number of non-violent offenders given parole?

    Simple thought experiment. Suppose you had facilities for a million prisoners, and they were totally full. Then you reduce the number of prisoners to just one, maintaining the capacity to handle a million inmates. What would happen to your total prison spending? What would happen to your per inmate spending?

  • Bad Comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by SoulMaster ( 717007 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @07:05PM (#54564173)

    This comparison is stupid.

    Contrary to popular belief: Harvard's true tuition is based on your family's income/assets, it's not fixed like standard schools. I get that the "list price" is $69K, but that's not the "cost" if your family isn't earning ~$250K/year. Harvard has "need-based" scholarship programs that can reduce the true cost to zero or near zero. The point is, if your academics can get you into Harvard College, they don't want you to worry about the price, they want you to attend. Oh, and they disallow student loans. https://college.harvard.edu/fi... [harvard.edu]

    From the Harvard site (linked): "In fact, approximately 70 percent of our students receive some form of aid, and about 60 percent receive need–based scholarships and pay an average of $12,000 per year. Twenty percent of parents pay nothing. No loans required."

    Here's a calculator: https://college.harvard.edu/fi... [harvard.edu]

    In other words, the "genius" who made this comparison isn't Harvard material - and is trying to say "it's expensive to house our inmates" by assuming Harvard is expensive. The truth is, it's not.

    If s/he had done some research, s/he could should have said "Cost of a Porsche Boxster S", or something else that is actually "expensive" instead of making the poor people think they've got no chance of affording Harvard if they can get in.

    Sloppy journalism.

    -SM

    Go Crimson!

  • unpopular fix (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @07:42PM (#54564377)
    I realize tat the snowflakes are going to call me a Trump fascist, but maybe it is time that these prisoners only get basic cable and not all of the premium channels.
  • Of course, it doesn't cost anything like $75 grand to keep a prisoner locked up and fed for a year. This is just a case of a $600 hammer, and the scam here is the money being paid into bureaucrat's salaries, pension padding, etc.

    -jcr

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.

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