Report: Mich. spending one-fifth of general fund budget on prisoners

An aging inmate population and growing healthcare expenses are contributing to the rising cost of incarceration

By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — It cost the state — and by extension, taxpayers — an average of $36,106 to incarcerate a single person in Michigan in 2017.

You can buy a new Ford Explorer for that, according to Kelley Blue Book.

At that rate, a single prisoner sentenced to 30 or more years would cost Michigan taxpayers more than $1 million to incarcerate.

As of Nov. 1, there were 38,678 people in the state's prisons, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Keeping them there adds up to nearly one-fifth of Michigan's annual general fund budget.

The state allotted $1.95 billion to the Michigan Department of Corrections in the 2017-18 fiscal year — spending 19% of Michigan's $10.2 billion general fund on the prison system.

And although the prison population in Michigan is at a 20-year low — it peaked at about 51,500 in 2007 — expenses continue to rise.

The House Fiscal Agency reports that the cost of prisoner health care is going up along with benefit and retirement costs for MDOC employees.

Rising costs are also partly because of the aging prison population.

In 2002, 34.3 percent of inmates were older than 40. By 2016, 45.2 percent were over 40, according to the House Fiscal Agency. Older inmates are more expensive to keep in prison because of rising health needs.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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