The Economics Of Louisiana’s Prisons

June 7, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Cindy Chang did an extensive analysis of Louisiana – the prison capital of the entire world. Highlights include:

  • The percentage of its population that Louisiana imprisons is five times as great as Iran, and 13 times as great as China’s. In fact no other country in the world has an incarceration rate as high as Louisiana’s.
  • Part of the reason for this is for-profit prisons that are worth $182 million. These prisons are mostly run by rural sheriffs – the very people who help send people to jail. The more people in jail, the more money they make.
  • They also lobby to ensure that no legislation gets passed that could reduce the number of inmates.
  • Each inmate is worth $24.39 a day.
  • The for-profit run prisons are for minor offenders while state-run prisons are for more serious ones. Yet the facilities at state-run prisons are much better and help inmates get an education. In contrast at for-profit prisons the inmates mostly just laze about. This means that those with the best chance of being reintegrated into society receive the least attention.
  • Louisiana spends over $600 million a year to ‘care’ for 40,000 inmates. This money could instead be used to invest in programs that would reduce crime and thus the number of inmates.

To read many more details including some anecdotes from both inmates and sheriffs, the for-profit companies that run the prisons, the role that race plays, how the current system came to be, why the system has come full circle since the 1800s, the city where it has become a rite of passage to spend time behind bars, and what the politicians have to say about it, click here.

Source: The Times-Picayune

Via: Freakonomics