NYC Inmates Cost Nearly $168K Per Year

That's almost as much as four years of Ivy League tuition

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 30, 2013 3:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – In New York, the annual cost of one inmate is almost as much as four years of Ivy League tuition: $167,731. That's $460 per day for an average of 12,287 prisoners, and it's quite a bit higher than what other big cities spend: $47,063 a year in LA ($128.94 a day), $52,925 a year in Chicago ($145 a day). Why? Experts say Rikers Island is a big part of the reason; the 400-acre island costs hundreds of millions per year to run. The city's former correction commissioner says costs would come way down if Rikers was replaced with jails next door to courthouses ($30.3 million is spent each year on transportation alone), but no one wants to go that route.

"Have you seen a whole lot of outcry on [the $167,731 figure]? Why doesn't anything happen? Because nobody cares," he tells the AP. "That's the reason we have Rikers Island. We want these guys put away out of public view." Another problem: New York inmates sometimes wait years in city jails before going to trial. Last year, the average length of a stay for detainees was 53 days. For sentenced inmates, 38.6 days. And one last interesting note: Costs are going up even though incarceration rates are going down. In 2001, when there were 14,490 inmates, it cost just $92,500 to incarcerate one for a year at Rikers (about $122,155 in today's dollars).

The Riker’s Island Penal Complex in New York’s East River is seen from the air in this undated photo.
The Riker’s Island Penal Complex in New York’s East River is seen from the air in this undated photo.   (AP Photo/Julia Robertson)
The entrance to Rikers Island is seen in New York, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.
The entrance to Rikers Island is seen in New York, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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