⬆ The Murphy administration reveals the shocking cost of housing inmates at state prisons

⬆ It costs more to house an inmate than it does to educate a child in New Jersey

⁉ What has driven costs so high?

It now costs more to house a single prison inmate in New Jersey than it does to educate a child. A lot more.

During budget hearings at the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday, Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn revealed the staggering numbers.

East Jersey State Prison in Avenel (Google Maps) COVID deaths pandemic credit law
East Jersey State Prison in Avenel (Google Maps)

The per inmate cost has risen to over $74,000 per year, an increase of 12% over the previous year.

For comparison, the state spends an average of about $19,000 per student on education.

It also means the state is spending nearly four times the amount it costs to educate a child, to house and care for state prison inmates.

The top education expenditure per pupil in New Jersey is in Camden at $29,000 per student. The cost of housing an inmate is still two-and-a-half times that amount.

attachment-Victoria Kuhn NJ Corrections Commissioner

Fewer inmates, but costing more

Kuhn released the shocking numbers even when detailing how the prison population has dramatically declined.

The prison population had been steadily increasing in New Jersey, but a series of justice reforms by Gov. Phil Murphy's administration reversed that trend.

Since 2020, the inmate population has declined nearly 30%.

The state has also closed four prisons.

Yet the cost of housing the inmates New Jersey has incarcerated has seen a sharp increase.

attachment-NJ INMATE COSTS

What is the reason for the increase?

Despite the sharp drop in the number of inmates, costs per inmate have escalated.

These costs are up over $8,000 per inmate in just one year.

Much of the increase can be blamed on rising healthcare costs for providing medical service to the incarcerated population, according to Commissioner Kuhn.

In defending her budget, Kuhn also cited staffing costs, building maintenance and money spent on new technology. Specifically, she cited a new $1.3 million mail-scanning system that was purchased to help prevent the smuggling of drugs into state prisons.

NJ corrections officer admits to civil rights violations of inmates Bayside State Prison in Cumberland County, NJ (Google Maps)
Bayside State Prison in Cumberland County, NJ (Google Maps)

How does New Jersey compare to other states?

New Jersey actually falls in the middle when looking at per inmate spending in other states.

At just over $74,000 per inmate, New Jersey currently ranks 14th in the nation.

Wyoming and California spend the most on prison inmates, with each topping $131,000 per year.

New York ranks seventh at $91,000 per inmate. Pennsylvania ranks 16th, spending nearly $68,000 per inmate.

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