Thursday, January 26, 2012

23% of Texas prison spending outside of TDCJ's budget

According to a new report (pdf) by the Vera Institute, "Texas taxpayers pay an average 23 percent more for state prisons than the state’s annual corrections budget reflects," reports Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman: "The new report by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based research organization that tracks criminal justice trends, calculates the state’s total costs for its adult corrections and prison programs at $3.3 billion — almost $783 million higher than the $2.5 billion annual budget for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice." Wrote Ward:
While Texas’ costs were 23.7 percent higher with the associated additional costs, other states ranged from 1 percent higher (Arizona) to 34 percent (Connecticut). Texas was one of six states — Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania — where between 20 and 34 percent of the corrections budgets were outside the prisons system budget.

When all costs are considered, the annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,166 per convict, according to the study. In Texas, the cost is $21,390 a year per convict.

See the full report, The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers, here.
Factors outside of TDCJ's budget included employee benefits and taxes, underfunded pension benefits and retiree health contributions, retirement costs, judgments and claims, and statewide administrative costs. I wonder what the folks at the Legislative Budget Board would have to say about Vera's calculations, and whether they need to update their Uniform Cost Report (pdf) on corrections as a result?


Lance said...

Hey Scott,

I didn't know you were jumping on the prison privatizing band wagon. The report fails to state that TDCJ employees pay the majority of their retirement cost. This report clearly fails to tell you of the attempt to cut pensions through prison and pension privatization.

Remember correctional officer's average life expectancy is 58 years and they die within a year and half after their retirement. If anything the state should fund more of the retirement and health care for the employees. The ERS pension fund is solvent and does not require a taxpayer bailout. If you want to reduce the prison population Scott, quit taking an ALEC stance on funding prisons.

RSO wife said...

If the price of putting people in prison were only counted in dollars spent by the state, I could agree with you. There are those of us who have had to foot the financial burden alone while those we care about are in jail. That takes a toll on our health and well being as well as our pocketbooks.

IMO this doesn't have as much to do with whether prisons are privatized or not as it does to do with whether we need to put people in prison who could be dealt with in other ways.

Not saying that everyone who breaks the law doesn't need to be punished. Just saying that we need to make the punishment fit the crime and keep those people out of prison who could be on some kind of supervised program.

Instead of being put in a supervised situation where they could still be a taxpaying asset, they are now a liability. They now no longer hold down jobs and pay taxes. They are not able to support their families, who sometimes have to go on welfare to survive.

When a person who was a hard working, taxpaying citizen goes to prison, nobody wins. They sure don't, their families don't, the community doesn't and neither do the taxpayers.

I sure miss Judge Poe and his unusual but effective punishments. Sometimes they were over the top, but at least he gave some thought to it and didn't just throw people in jail to make sure his constituents knew he was "tough on crime" when he came up for reelection.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I didn't take "an ALEC stance on funding prisons," Lance. This post takes no position on privatization, the study cited simply quantifies off-budget costs to get a truer view of expenses. It doesn't suggest privatization as a solution.

It's true pension and retirement costs are a key argument for cost reduction from privatization, but you don't get to ignore reality just because it might agree with your opposition. There are plenty of other truths about privatization that mitigate against it, which this blog frequently discusses.

Anonymous said...

Why does TDCJ not look at the possibility of 'paying' the inmates some monetary amount to do some jobs that would be a win/win solution. Why can't one unit produce some goods that all units can use? Or make items that could be sold to free world? At the present inmates are encouraged to have jobs, but nothing in return for their working. So, why work? If the state cannot pay in actual money, why not 'good time' rewards?

For every inmate we need to realize there is a family somewhere also helping fund the units.

Anonymous said...

Adam Gopnik, "The Caging of America," here:

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should quit locking up so many people. Last legislative session there were over 700 new laws passed and more severe penalites imposed for existing laws.

Anonymous said...

I wonder HOW IS THAT TUFF ON CRIME working for the taxpayers now? Is everyone so dumb as to think this would not come back to bite you. Texas tax payers have to come to grips with that taxes will be raised one day to keep people locked up. Just because they did not raise taxes to save schools means nothing because the LEDG and the other rich will pay to educate there kids and the poor will end up in prison anyway. I bet though they will make an excuse and raise taxes or charge new fees (That is a Texas thang right thar folks) to keep po folks in prison.