W.Va. prison spending has increased more drastically than in any other state

The amount of money West Virginia spends on its prisons increased 386% from 2001-2018, the most drastic spending increase of any state in the U.S., a recent ArrestRecords report reveals.

In 2001, West Virginia spent nearly $62 million on maintaining its prisons; In 2018, the state spent just over $300 million.

The following most significant increases in prison spending are:

• 275% increase in North Dakota, from $27 million to $101 million

• 233% increase in South Dakota, from $38 million to $125 million

• 218% increase in New Mexico, from $149 million to $475 million

• 197% increase in Vermont, from $46 million to $137 million

On average, U.S. states today spend 95% more money on prison systems than just 19 years ago. All but 19 of the 49 states studied spend more than $500 million annually on prisons, and 17 spend more than $1 billion.

The state with the highest total cost for maintaining its prisons is California, which in 2018 spent $9.3 billion toward doing so.

The following states that spent the most on prison systems in 2018 are:

• Texas, $3.7 billion

• New York, $3.2 billion

• Florida, $2.3 billion

• Pennsylvania, $2 billion

Nationwide, the U.S. spends nearly $5 billion each year on its 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile detention centers and 3,134 local jails.

According to the report, the most significant factors contributing to rises in spending in state prison systems across the country are increasing wage demands, increasing officer-to-inmate ratios, increasing incarceration rates and lengthier sentences across the board.

The most significant portion of prison spending by states goes toward paying the salaries, benefits and overtime of staffers. The other most significant costs are attributed to health care, food, safety requirements and guidelines, recreation, educational opportunities and facility maintenances such as heat and electricity.

The vast American prison system, the report states, incarcerated about 1.5 million people in 2018, about 85% of which remain in state facilities rather than federal ones.

The U.S. prison system also is the largest in the world, with the highest rates of incarceration, followed by Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, Poland and Mexico.

The highest inmate population of U.S. states is in Texas, where about 164,000 people were incarcerated in 2018.

The following states that incarcerated the most people in 2018 are:

• California, 129,000 prisoners

• Florida, 98,000 prisoners

• Georgia, 54,000 prisoners

• Ohio, 50,000 prisoners

In contrast, Vermont and North Dakota each incarcerated just 1,700 people in 2018. Maine and Wyoming each incarcerated 2,500, and New Hampshire incarcerated 2,800.

The report reveals that of the nearly 1.5 million people imprisoned in 2018 throughout the U.S., 92% were male. Of that 92%, about half were between the ages of 25-39 years.

33% of the incarcerated men were Black, 29% were white, 23% were Hispanic and the remaining 15% are categorized as “Other.”

Of the 8% who identify as female, 46% were white, 18% were Black, 18% were Hispanic and 16% are categorized as “Other.”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected].