The cost of imprisonment

We ran a story yesterday about the daily cost of housing prison inmates. We got to thinking, “How much does it cost to house ourselves.” So we sat down with a piece of paper and started calculation our daily costs.

The budget director of the corrections department says the direct costs to house, feed, and treat inmates when they’re sick works out to $16.39 a day. Of that amount $12.14 a day is for healthcare, everything from treating a cut or scrape to getting a transplant. Three meals cost $2.54. Equipment and supplies, clothing, fuel for vehicles add another $1.37 a day.

Add in the costs of guards, electricity for the lights and the fences, administrators, doctors, water, and all kinds of other stuff that goes with making sure 30,000 men and women are not amongst us raises the overall total to $44.68.

After our calculations, we learned that it probably costs something pretty close to that amount for those of us on the outside.

We calculated the daily costs of our mortgage, our health insurance, our utilities including cable and internet access, and a few other things. Since we’re married, we divided by two. We were under the daily cost of keeping a prisoner off of our street but we had not counted the cost of our food (remembering that unlike prison inmates we can go out to eat from time to time and that one meal alone is usually several times the cost of three prison meals a day and our groceries are quite a big more expensive than theirs.. The amount we spend on clothing in a year, calculated on a daily rate, is probably quite a bit more than the cost of a prison uniform. They don’t have much use for sport coats, suits, ties, dress shirts, etc., after all. The movies they watch probably don’t cost nearly as much as the movies we go to a theatre to see even if we don’t go that often. There are people in the Missourinet newsroom who probably spend more than $2.58 on one pretentious cup of coffee on their way to work every morning.
They don’t travel or own cars and trucks. We do.

Bottom line, it costs less to house, feed, clothe, and maintain a prisoner than it costs to do the same thing for ourselves. The difference is the costs that go with making sure those prisoners stay where they belong so that we can go out and eat, go see a movie, go shopping, pick up a cup of status coffee and otherwise move about freely.

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