Pennsylvania spends $286 for every resident to incarcerate prisoners, 11th most among the 50 states, and the commonwealth imprisons 473 people for every 100,000 residents, 26th most, according to a new examination of incarceration nationwide.
The analysis from HowMuch.net found Pennsylvania incarcerates fewer people than the nearby states of Ohio (567 per 100,000), West Virginia (492) and Virginia (560). However, it imprisons more than New York (314 per 100,000), New Jersey (278) and Maryland (407).
The site’s review also found the Keystone state spends less than New York ($335 per capita), Virginia ($310) and Maryland ($317). However, Pennsylvania’s spending outpaces Ohio ($181 per capita), New Jersey ($227) and West Virginia ($195).
The state’s Department of Corrections’ 2018-19 fiscal year budget was about $2.3 billion, according to its website. That is up slightly from the nearly $2.2 billion in 2013-14, and it is also lower than the $3.7 billion budget HowMuch.net used in its analysis.
In 2016, the state spent $42,700 per inmate for incarceration, which was more than the $35,300 per inmate the state spent in 2006, according to state numbers. While that was less than the national average of $45,400 per inmate, it was more than Ohio ($33,700) and West Virginia ($42,000) spend.
Pennsylvania’s prison population stands at approximately 47,300 inmates, which represents a decrease of more than 4,300 inmates over the past 6½ years, according to state numbers. The prison population peaked in June 2012, when the population reached 51,757.
Pennsylvania officials also point to declining crime rates for the reduction in the state’s prison population. The state’s crime rate dropped by 4.7 percent in 2017, the most recent numbers available, which was 1.4 percentage points more than the nationwide crime drop.
In generating its analysis, HowMuch.net incorporated data from the U.S. Census for 2017 and numbers from the U.S. Department of Justice. The study found that Southern states tend to have higher rates of incarceration, while those in the northeast tend to put fewer people in prison on a per capita basis.
Nationally, Louisiana incarcerates the most people per capita (942 per 100,000), followed by Oklahoma (931) and Mississippi (812). Alaska spends the most on prisons per capita ($436), followed by California ($370) and New Mexico ($346).
Meanwhile, a recent poll from Gallup revealed a majority of Americans (52 percent) say crime is an “extremely” or “very serious” problem. While that is up slightly from 48 percent a year earlier, the rate is down from 2015-2017 when the numbers ranged between 59 percent and 60 percent, according to Gallup.