As recidivism increases, taxpayers pay ever-larger sums to support a growing corrections system. In some states, criminal justice budgets quadrupled over a twenty year period. In part, this is because prison is terribly costly. At the low end, in a state such as Mississippi, incarceration can cost approximately $18,000 per year per prisoner. At the high end, in a state such as California, it can cost an astonishing $50,000 per year per prisoner. According to the Pew Center on the States, state and federal spending on corrections has grown 400% over the past 20 years, from about $12 billion to about $60 billion. Corrections spending is currently among the fastest growing line items in state budgets, and 1 in 8 full-time state government employees works in corrections.
How is it “conservative” to spend vast amounts of taxpayer money on a strategy without asking whether it is providing taxpayers with the best public safety return on their investment?