The Cost to Taxpayers

What It’s Costing: Fiscal Burdens of Prison Overcrowding in MA


  • MA prisons are at over 140% of their capacity, with many operating at more than 200% of their intended capacity, and some over 300%.
  • As of March 2011, there were 11,388 inmates in 18 facilities managed by the Department of Corrections. That number is projected to grow 26% — to almost 14,000 – by 2019.
  • Parole rates in MA have dropped dramatically, from 58% in 2010 to 35% in 2011.

The Cost to Taxpayers

  • It costs about $46,000 a year to house just one inmate in MA, 56% more than the national average.
  • In 2010, MA spent $514.2 million on prisons, up from $408.6 million in 2001.
  • Inmates are far more expensive than parolees and those on probation.  In 2008, prisons cost an average of $79 per inmate per day, while it costs only $3 to $8 per individual per day to administer parole or probation services.
  • Massachusetts spends nearly $100 million a year on prisoner health care, nearly double the cost from 2001.

What Works

States like Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina have made major reforms projected to save millions of dollars – while reducing crime.


  • Enacted substance abuse treatment for inmates, parolees, and those on probation, as well as a graduate sanctions program
  • Saved the state $2 million in the first year alone and has an estimated savings of $2 billion by 2012
  • Reduced probation revocations by 26% and contributed to a 9% reduction in crime since 2007, giving Texas its lowest crime rate since 1973


  • Lowered barriers to parole eligibility, initiated a medical parole program for terminally ill inmates, created an evidence-based risk assessment tool to help correctional officers determine which individuals are most qualified for parole
  • Estimated to save $450 by 2012
  • Reduced state prison population by 22%

South Carolina

  • Instituted a medical parole program, expanded parole eligibility for certain offenses, and eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession
  • Projected to save over $240 million
  • Projected to reduce incarcerated population by 7.3%