The Long Term Cost of Incarcerating Young People Can Reach $8 – 21 Billion Annually
Date:  12-18-2014

Justice Policy Institute report reveals many states spend over $100,000 a year to lock-up a juvenile
The following press release was issued by Justice Policy Institute (JPI). JPI reports that the hidden costs of incarcerating youth include the cost of recidivism, lost future earnings of confined youth, lost future government tax revenue, additional Medicare and Medicaid spending, and the cost of sexual assault on confined youth.

New report provides first-ever estimates of long-term costs of confinement on taxpayers and youth

December 9, 2014

CONTACT: Kyle Moler


Washington, DC – Thirty-three U.S. states and jurisdictions spend $100,000 or more annually to incarcerate a young person, and continue to generate outcomes that result in even greater costs, according to a new report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). The report, Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration, produced the first-ever estimate of the overall costs resulting from negative outcomes associated with incarceration, and found that these long-term consequences of incarcerating young people could cost taxpayers $8 billion to $21 billion each year. “Every year, the majority of states spend $100,000 or more to lock up youth who are mostly imprisoned for troubled behavior or nonviolent offenses,” said Marc Schindler, executive director of Justice Policy Institute. “And compared to the huge long-term costs to young people, their families, victims, and taxpayers, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. This is a poor investment and we must do better.” The billions of dollars in hidden costs result from formerly incarcerated young people earning lower wages, paying less in taxes, as well as having a greater dependence upon government assistance and higher rates of recidivism. Research shows that the experience of incarceration increases the likelihood that young people will commit a new offense in the future.

The most expensive confinement option for a young person, on average, can cost $400 a day or nearly $150,000 a year.

In a survey of state expenditures on confinement option for a young person was confinement in 46 states, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) found that the average costs of the most expensive $407.58 per day, $36,682 for three months, $73,364 for six months, and $148,767 per year. The data show that in 33 states and jurisdictions taxpayers can spend $100,000 a year or more on a single young person’s confinement. By contrast, community-based programming that can provide individualized, wraparound services based on the unique needs of each youth and that engage the family and connect the youth to neighborhood resources can cost much less – as little as $75 per day.

Each year, the U.S. incurs an estimated $8-$21 billion in long-term costs for the confinement of young people. While the direct costs taxpayers will spend on young people’s confinement every day or every year are high, these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg of the exorbitant price to young people, their families and communities; and everyone pays for policy choices that needlessly confine youth.

The modest silver lining of the youth deincarceration trend: Billions saved. The “youth deincarceration” trend has coincided with a decrease in crime and with policy changes in juvenile justice. Absent policy change and the crime trends, the estimated costs for youth confinement could have been much, much higher. JPI estimates that had the 45 percent decrease in the number of youth confined nationwide never occurred, the estimated costs for victims and taxpayers as a result of the confinement of young people might have been in the range of $14 billion to $39 billion.

Read full press release.

Read the report Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth incarceration