The Cost of Prisons in America

Have you or a loved one ever been kept in prison? This is a traumatic experience that can also prove to be extremely costly. It has been estimated that the government of the United States spends $80 billion per year to keep just over 2 million people in prison. But there are many other costs that get forgotten.

The Cost of Supporting a Prisoner is Immense

You should be aware that the cost of being a family member supporting a relative in prison can be immense. The price paid by relatives, who are overwhelmingly women, can include health care, hygiene items, phone calls, emails, care packages, and other support items. The costs rise even higher during holidays.

It has been estimated by the Prison Policy Initiative that the cost of maintaining a commissary account for prisoners can reach $2.9 billion a year. This also includes the cost of phone calls, emails, and other means of support. This is paid by relatives of inmates, not by the state or Federal government.

The reader should also take notice of the fact that the families of inmates are often on the hook financially for other kinds of charges. They may be compelled to pay legal fees, restitution to the victim, and other types of fines that the inmate themselves are unable to pay. This amount can reach $13,000 per family.

Families Are Being Forced to Shoulder the Burden

As noted above, it costs the United States over $80 billion to keep 2 million inmates behind bars. It costs families of these inmates nearly $3 billion to support them. As time goes on, it seems that family members, most of them female, are the ones being forced to bear the overwhelming share of the burden.

One of the main reasons why the cost of supporting an inmate has gone up so high is due to outsourcing. More and more of the basic functions associated with keeping inmates incarcerated have been farmed out to private third-party sources. This means the private company can set the prices as high as they like.

More laws have been passed in order to regulate the conduct of these private prison corporations. However, not enough is being done to get prices under control. As a result, families of inmates are still feeling the crunch when it comes to keeping their loved ones properly fed and supplied with necessities.

As costs continue to rise, the effort that people expend to keep in contact with their loved ones in prison becomes more intense. The holidays are particularly lonely seasons for inmates since the cost of communication is so high. Many go without it even as people on the outside continue to struggle to support them.