The cost of imprisoning each of California’s 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year, enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer.
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. For example, the corrections department has one employee for every two inmates, compared with one employee for roughly every four inmates in 1994.