How Much Does it Cost…

… to house an inmate?

Having been asked several times this month how much it costs to hold an inmate in jail, I thought this would be a good time to put a broad view of the costs out there for the public. It’s completely reasonable for this number to be available to the taxpayers that pay those costs.

For Sheriff’s Offices, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards provides a formula that gives the official cost per day as far as the State of Texas is concerned. That formula appears on the INMATES WITH IMMIGRATION DETAINER form. The formula is (Jail budget ÷ jail capacity ÷ 365).

What makes up the Jail Budget? Click for more detail
The Jail budget in this formula consists of costs associated with salaries and benefits for jail employees, supplies used in the jails, contracts associated with the jail (medical, linen, food service, etc.), operating costs such as water and electricity, and those costs associated with maintaining the physical facilities.


For the 2015 year that formula would indicate that the cost per inmate per day would be a little less than $50.00.

Jail Budget ÷ Jail Capacity ÷ 365 = Daily Cost
$11,271,123.00 ÷ 624 ÷ 365 = $49.49


While this formula is valuable for giving a standardized number for the State of Texas to use when comparing all the jails in the state, it leaves something to be desired locally. Looking back using that formula with actual 2014 expenditures in the place of “Jail budget” then we can arrive at the following actual cost for 2014 using the state formula:

Jail Expenditures ÷ Jail Capacity ÷ 365 = Daily Cost
$11,702,059.00 ÷ 624 ÷ 365 = $51.38


That number can be made even more accurate. By using Jail Capacity rather than actual inmates held, the formula actually is measuring the cost of a jail bunk regardless of whether it has an individual in it or not. Jails use a figure known as the ADP (Average Daily Population) to reflect how many people on average were incarcerated for a given time period. Looking back, we can take the process one step further by substituting the 2014 ADP for Jail Capacity and arrive with an actual cost per day per inmate:

Jail Expenditures ÷ Jail ADP ÷ 365 = Daily Cost
$11,702,059.00 ÷ 485 ÷ 365 = $66.10


If you would like more information on this or other topics, please let me know by commenting below.

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