Prison Reform Movement (PRM) reports that the annual cost of incarcerating an inmate at New York City’s huge jail complex, Rikers Island, exceeds the cost of four years tuition for an undergraduate at Harvard.
The average yearly cost per inmate at Rikers is $167, 731. Four years of undergraduate tuition at Harvard costs $155,564. PRM claims that most of the expenses at Rikers Island are for the salaries of the 9,000 correctional officers who work there, not for inmate expenses such as housing, food or programming.
The majority of the inmates at Rikers Island are black or Hispanic, and are being held on drug charges. PMR, along with other sentencing reform advocates, hope that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the incarceration rate of non-violent drug offenders needs to be reduced will lead to a decrease in the prisoner population at Rikers Island. New York City far outspends other major cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago, in jailing its residents.