America's Prisoners Cost You $260 a Year
Mandatory minimums, repeat-offender laws spiking prison numbers: report
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2014 12:31 PM CDT
710 of every 100,000 US residents are incarcerated, says a new report.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A new report from a branch of the Brookings Institution notes that the US spent $80 billion on incarceration in 2010, an expense that translates into each American paying $260 per year to house our criminals. That's up from $77 per US resident in 1980, reports CBS News. With violent crime rates down, what's behind the increase? Mandatory sentencing and repeat-offender laws, among other things, like a jump in health-care spending on an aging prison population. The report finds policy changes like "three strikes" laws have led the incarceration rate to balloon from 220 inmates per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 710 inmates per 100,000 of us. That's 340% higher than Mexico's rate, and 1,400% higher than Japan's, Vox reports.

Per the report, "the likelihood that an arrested offender will be sent to prison, as well as the time prisoners can expect to serve, has increased for all types of crime." Charles Lane, however, takes issue with the report (and others like it), which he says "downplays recent progress in favor of a scarier but outdated narrative." While mandatory minimums and longer sentences "probably do yield diminishing returns in terms of crime reduction ... the era of ever-increasing 'mass incarceration' is ending," he writes in the Washington Post. The number of state and federal inmates reached a peak in 2009 and has "shrunk consistently thereafter," he adds, noting new admissions rates have also been reduced.

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Kaye Jeltema
May 11, 2014 1:18 PM CDT
While the costs have risen, they haven't risen as dramatically as the story suggests. According to the Bur.of Labor Statistics' Inflation Calculator, the 1980 dollar figure translates into $220.81 in 2014 dollars. That means an effective $39.19 increase. Not that much.
May 11, 2014 1:09 PM CDT
Can I just leave my 5 cases of baloney in back of the jail?
May 11, 2014 12:13 PM CDT
I have NO problem with paying to keep "them" away from "us". In fact, I would pay twice that to ensure that one could walk freely, safely, anywhere! I don't care about those who make choices and complain about consequences! Enforce full sentences, no probation or parole, implement the death penalty immediately upon sentence and mandate the removal of gyms in prison as well as mandating work programs. Most of us pray on Sunday while "they" prey on us 7 days a week.