A little over a year ago, although arrests and reported crimes in Nebraska were continuing a decade-long decline, the state’s corrections system was badly overcrowded (at 159% of capacity, with estimates predicting 170% by 2020), with prisoners coming into the system faster than they were being released. So the state’s new governor, Pete Ricketts (R), and…

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By Christopher Zoukis

Prison Overcrowding: A Cause Which has Terrible Effects

Overcrowded prisons represent a serious social and penological problem in the United States.  They’re a safety issue — putting a strain on prison employees, making it more difficult to monitor inmate behavior and control the wanton violence inside our nation’s prisons.  They’re a sanitary issue — potentially shoving inmates into even more dangerous, less desirable, and less humane conditions.  They also pose a rehabilitation issue, as less money can be spent on trying to help inmates resolve what ails them and further exasperating the damaging internal prison culture.

Even with all of these obvious problems, some states actually see prison overcrowding as a fiscal advantage.  A report released by the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission claims that overcrowded prisons may actually save the states money, even if at the expense of reduced inmate misconduct, crime, and victimization.

Assuming the Same Prisoners, Costs Decrease

The average cost per inmate in Ohio is about $60 per day.  This cost includes staffing, maintenance, and other expenses that occur when operating a prison.  Sixty dollars per day adds up very quickly and costs the state millions of dollars every year, many millions.

For every open bunk in prison, the state of Ohio saves roughly $60 (slightly less, but the number varies depending on the prison’s population versus operational capacity).  This would indicate that it is in the state’s best interest to avoid overcrowding.  After all, every open bunk is a revolving expense that fulfills no purpose.

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