Health care costs at NYC jails are skyrocketing, data shows

Health care costs at New York’s jails are skyrocketing, even as the prisoner population plummets.

The biggest reason: A city inmate is twice as likely to be mentally ill now than a decade ago, and that costs more to treat.

From 2010 to 2020, taxpayer money spent for correction health services surged 76% — from $197 million to $347 million, new numbers from the city’s Independent Budget Office show. At the same time, the number of offenders fell by half — from 13,000 to about 6,500.

Per-prisoner spending over the 10 years by three city agencies — the Correction and Health departments, along with NYC Health + Hospitals — is even more astounding, the IBO analysis shows.

In 2010, the city spent a daily average of $41 for each of 13,000 inmates. This year, that average was $147 — 256% higher — for each of 6,500.

In those same years, the IBO notes, the number of mentally ill offenders increased from 29% to 48%, which indicates they cost more to treat.

Rikers IslandA prisoner standing behind prison bars. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

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