The Cost of Detention

“The average cost of incarceration in the United States is determined by different methods. It costs anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000 per year to house inmates in federal and state correctional facilities; the considerable spread is due to the criteria used by government agencies and prison system watchdogs. There is consensus, however, on the high cost and burden to taxpayers produced by the U.S. penal system.”–Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff

So let’s do the math.  At the low end of $20K per year, the daily rate would be $20,000/365 = $54.79, or a monthly cost of $1,643.70.  At the $40K annual rate the daily rate would be $109.59, or $3,287.70 a month.

Now let’s look at the cost of holding migrant children separated from parents in “tent cities” created to hold thousands of children according to what HHS told NBC news:  Those beds cost $775 per person per night.

Again, the math:  $775 per night is $23,250 a month.  Or, $279,000 per person per year.  Hopefully no one stays for a year, but the way things are going, who knows?  In other words we are paying 7 times more to house migrant children than the most expensive correctional facility.

Prisoners in the U.S. get meals, toothbrushes and soap, and access to showers.  They get free medical care. Most get to go outside to recreate. Many take advantage of educational opportunities or vocational training.  They get family visits, and visits from volunteers and clergy.  While prison conditions can be harsh and dangerous, and the loss of freedom should not be discounted, there are laws and systems to provide oversight to assure humane treatment.  They have rights.

What do migrant children get?  Apparently no soap or toothbrushes, and a lack of medical care.  Limited access to outdoor recreation and education.  No family visits.  And the press can’t see inside.  From the limited press reports they get a pad on a cold concrete floor and a space blanket, and the older ones are told to look after the younger ones. Do they have rights?

We the taxpayers are footing the $775 per day bill.  Seems to me that is more than enough to furnish these children with more humane conditions.  Time to shed a light on where the money goes.

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