NYC Spent Half a Million Dollars Per Inmate in 2020, Report Says

The New York City Department of Corrections spent $447,337 per inmate in fiscal 2020, a third more than a year ago and more than double the fiscal 2015 mark, according to a report released Wednesday by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The city is spending more on inmates despite a drop in the number of incarcerations during the pandemic, the report said. Stay-at-home orders led to fewer arrests and prisoners were released to reduce the spread of Covid-19, leading to a drop in city inmates.

Stringer, who is running to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio as mayor later this year, said the city’s correction’s department is posing budgetary concerns and producing meager results. In the comptroller’s report, which is part of an annual watch list of poorly-performing city agencies, Stringer called out a 27% rise in violent incidents in jails from a year ago, as well as mounting safety concerns despite spending increases.

The department has been under federal oversight since 2015 with a mandate to improve its use-of-force policies. However, the federal monitor in October said the city hasn’t made enough progress under a consent agreement.

“The cost to incarcerate a single individual on Rikers has exploded even as our jail population remains near historic lows – yet rates of violence continue to climb,” Stringer said in a statement, referring to the city’s main jail complex. “That means we are spending more and more money to incarcerate fewer and fewer people and reducing the safety of both officers and people in custody in the process.”

Stringer has promised to close the city jail if elected mayor, a proposal he has advocated for since 2015 due to rising safety concerns on Rikers Island.

In June, de Blasio announced disciplinary action for 17 uniformed jail staff after an investigation into a 2019 incident involving Layleen Polanco, a transgender Latina woman who was found dead in a prison cell.

The city has been taking steps to reform its criminal justice system in the aftermath of the 2020 police killing of George Floyd. This month the city published a database of officer disciplinary records after winning a court fight with the police union which sought to block their release. In January, the city also took steps update its officer disciplinary process, more clearly laying out the penalties for certain offenses.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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