A recent Politifact fact check found that California Senator Kamala Harris’ statements arguing that it costs $33,000 a year nationally to incarcerate an inmate are in fact correct.
Harris told the incarcerated women’s advocacy group Women Unshackled in Washington D.C. in July that it costs $75,000 a year to lock up an inmate in California.
“Let’s look at the fact that there is an issue around how much we are paying — and again, this gets back to the economic cost — it costs us about $33,000 a year to lock somebody up. In California it costs about $75,000 a year,” Harris told the forum.
Harris, a Democrat, recently teamed up with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on bipartisan bail reform legislation to prevent accused minors from sitting in jail for their offenses if they can’t afford bail.
An op-ed written by the senators targets the current “discriminatory and wasteful” bail system and its crippling effects on young offenders.
“Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally,” the op-ed reads. “Yet, that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.”
The Senators argue that an accused’s jail time is often determined by their economic status or available connections.
“Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.”
Harris and Paul argue that bail reform could potentially save American taxpayers “roughly $78 billion a year.”
Politifact analyzed Harris’ figures and other reports and found her statistics to be correct.
“We interpreted Harris’s claim about per inmate expenses to mean the operational costs to house male and female inmates, including security, health care, facility upkeep and employee compensation,” Politifact said. “Advocates for criminal justice reform often argue that just looking at the operational costs of running prisons ignores the social costs of incarcerating Americans.”
“We looked at those costs as well, but based our rating primarily on the evidence supporting the numbers Harris cited in her Women Unshackled appearance.”
A Vera Institute report examined the cost to house inmates at prisons nationwide. Data from 45 states found the total cost per inmate to be approximately $33,274 a year.
Additionally, a June 2017 article by the Associated Press estimates that it costs the state of California $75,560 per fiscal year to house an inmate. This number comes from funds Governor Jerry Brown set aside in the 2017 budget California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Sen. Kamala Harris recently claimed ‘it costs us about $33,000 a year’ (nationally) to lock somebody up’ … ‘In California it costs about $75,000 a year.’ A recent study that examined costs in 45 states plus data from California’s departments of corrections and finance support the senator’s statement. The evidence supports the figures she cited. We rate Harris’ claim True,” Politifact concluded.