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State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2013
6 pages

This report examines long-term trends and recent policy reforms regarding State expenditures for corrections.


This report from the National Association of State Budget Officers examines long-term trends and recent policy reforms regarding State spending for corrections. Findings in the report indicate that because State correctional budgets are funded entirely by the States' general fund dollars, the Federal Government has limited influence over how States' correctional funds are spent with the budgets being shaped more by State criminal justice policies and other factors. A review of data shows that since the 1980s State correctional spending patterns have followed the rise in prison populations with State correctional budgets increasing by 427 percent between 1986 and 2010. This disproportionate increase in correctional spending has led to a larger share of general fund budgets going to corrections with the share of funding increasing by 2.3 percent, totaling $15 billion in fiscal 2012. The report shows however, that corrections expenditures, as a percent of spending from total State funds, have remained more stable and that the rate of increase in corrections expenditures has been lower when compared to the growth in general fund spending. The report also addresses how recent criminal justice reform efforts are being used to address the cost drivers of correctional budgets in such a way as to not put public safety at risk. Figures and references