It costs about $25,000 a year to pay for the housing, food, medical care, and security for each of the 2.3 million residents of America’s prisons. In a world of limited public budgets, each of these expenditures represents an opportunity cost—a teacher’s aide not hired, a section of road not widened. Local, state, and federal governments pay such incarceration costs, which amount to $75 bullion in the aggregate, while slashing budgets for essential services for the rest of the citizenry including medical care, biomedical research, infrastructure, and educational funding—investments which arguably provide greater returns to taxpayers.

First Page