What do prisoners cost?

  • By Scott North
  • Wednesday, April 20, 2011 3:25pm
  • Local News

Lock them up. Throw away the key. If only it were that simple — and cheap.

Washington taxpayers spent nearly $345 million last year to operate the state’s prisons.

That’s about $95 per day for each inmate, the state Department of Corrections calcul

ates. That’s a bit more than Oregon spends and close to double what it costs in Idaho. But if you think prison is pricey here because inmates can ha

ve flat-screen televisions in their cells or attend yoga classes, guess again.

“The costs for TVs, yoga, family programs and most other forms of recreation are not paid for with taxpayer dollars,” corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said. “Virtually all of that is paid for out of the Offender Betterment Fund, which is money collected from offenders and their families. The biggest revenue source for the fund is collect phone calls.”Data show the prison system’s biggest area of expense — 75 percent — is compensation paid to workers. Indeed, nearly half of the spending is for salaries and benefits to corrections officers who do the dangerous work of keeping inmates under lock and key. Add to that the cost of people and supplies needed for humane confinement, including health care. On average, the state spends $18 a day per inmate on health and psychological treatment. That’s roughly a fifth of prison costs.

Costs vary from prison to prison and are influenced by a number of factors, including the level of security and the inmate population. Monroe, for example, has higher health care costs than average because some of the state’s most ill offenders are there so they can be near hospitals, Lewis said. Monroe also is home to the Special Offender’s Center, where mentally ill inmates are housed.

Here are some other numbers the corrections department supplied in response to a public records request:

•$159 million — Salaries and benefits for corrections officers.

•$62 million — Salaries and benefits for noncustodial prison staff.

•$46.5 million — Spending on goods and services at prisons.

•$38 million — Salaries and benefits for prison health care staff.

•$65.3 million — Total spent on health care.

Average daily cost per inmate in Washington’s major prisons

Institution Prison costs Health costs Average population Average daily cost
Statewide $76.85 $17.99 14,950 $94.84
Monroe Correctional Complex $88.86 $28.20 2,514 $117.06
Washington State Penitentiary $98.74 $18.93 2,301 $117.67
Washington Corrections Center for Women $87.71 $33.10 873 $120.81
Clallam Bay Corrections Center $90.73 $8.99 895 $99.72
Stafford Creek Corrections Center $53.64 $15.49 1,955 $69.13
Airway Heights Corrections Center $56.92 $15.66 2,171 $72.58
Washington Corrections Center $72.57 $15.66 1,652 $88.23

More in Local News

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

One arrested in Marysville in connection with robbery

The suspect was caught in the 5800 block of 60th Drive NE.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

City Council OKs initial funding for Smith Avenue parking lot

The site of the former Smith Street Mill is being developed in anticipation of light rail.

Single fingerprint on robbery note leads to arrest

The holdup occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Lynnwood in June.

Most Read