It's Cheaper to Go to Harvard For Four Years Than to Be Imprisoned in NYC For One

A recent report prepared by New York City's Independent Budget Office revealed that the annual cost per inmate in New York City prisons is about equal to four years' tuition at an Ivy League school: $167,731. While running an efficient prison system is important, this ridiculously high number is indicative of a flawed system that needs improvement quickly.

So what exactly is making the cost of one year at a New York City prison cost in the same ballpark as a Harvard education? Riker's Island is apparently a major contributor. Because of its location, the cost of annual transportation alone is $30.3 million. Transporting inmates to and from courthouses, as well as providing rides for staff and visitors, all contribute to this giant cost. Former NYC Correction Commissioner Martin F. Horn has reduced the cost figure by suggesting placing jailhouses closer to courthouses. Those living in such residential areas, however, are opposed to this idea.

Another major factor for this price tag is the length of time inmates stay in jail. According to the Department of Correction, the average duration for detainees is 53 days, and 38.6 days for sentenced prisoners, some who have waited years just for their trial. With added costs such as paying 9,000 employees across the city to run debt services and providing high-quality health care to prisoners, the cost of overseeing the NYC prison system is clear, but unjustifiable.

Prisons need to be run smoothly. However the way NYC facilities are handled is clumsy. For one, costs could be reduced by having a more efficient justice system, so inmates don't have to wait so long for their trials and remain in prison.

While whittling down this price figure is easier said than done, it needs to be done. This number really is ridiculous, especially considering the yearly cost per inmate in Los Angeles is $47,063, and $53,925 in Chicago. If other big cities can make their prisons work without absurdly high costs and secluded islands, then why can't New York?

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Nancy Chung

I am currently a student at Emory University, majoring in English. In my free time I enjoy reading, gaming, and collecting spoons.

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