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Average Annual Cost Per Inmate Up, but Officials Not Alarmed

Emily Woodbury/IPR File
The prison yard at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison

$34,113 a year. That's the average annual amount the I0wa Department of Corrections spends per inmate according to an audit of DOC institutions from 2011 to 2015. 

The audit also shows that the average annual cost per inmate rose by 15 percent since 2011, and during this same time period the total inmate population decreased by seven percent.

Steve Dick, financial manager for the DOC,  says when you have fewer prisoners the daily costs of running an institution are not as spread out. So expenses are divided by a smaller number of people. 

"That is not necessarily a bad thing," says Dick. "As far as the prison overcrowding in that prison population we were in a position where we were in need of reducing those numbers. And therefore, getting that population to the levels where they’re at today, was a good thing."

In 2016 overcrowding is at 14 percent, back in 2011 it was 22 percent. However, in 2014 that number dropped to nine percent only to increase to 13 percent the following year.

In 2014 the DOC eliminated 152 beds in Fort Madison after it closed a unit for offenders with special needs. Those inmates were then transferred to the general population. 

In addition to the drop in inmate population, Dick says increases in staff compensation, as well as rising medical costs for geriatric inmates are also contributing factors for this increase in annual cost per inmate.