"State correctional spending patterns reflect the rise in the prison population that began in the early 1980’s and persisted until 2010.17 Expansion of the state prison population required increased spending for capital infrastructure, the state employee workforce, and the administrative needs of the judicial system. From fiscal 1986 to fiscal 2012, spending from state funds18 for corrections increased by 427 percent from $9.9 billion to $52.4 billion (without adjusting for inflation).19 By comparison, total spending from state funds increased by 315 percent over the same time period.

"For many states, the effect of disproportionate growth in correctional spending led to a larger share of general fund dollars going to corrections. Since the mid 1980’s, the share of general fund budgets going to corrections doubled in 15 states and increased by at least half in 31 states.20 In the aggregate, corrections spending has gone from 4.7 percent of general fund spending in fiscal 1986 to 7.0 percent in fiscal 2012, an increase of 2.3 percentage points. This additional 2.3 percent of state general funds was equivalent to $15 billion in fiscal 2012.21

"Corrections expenditures, as a percent of spending from total state funds, (general funds, other state funds and bonds), have remained more stable, and the rate of increase has been lower compared to the growth in general fund spending. Corrections spending as a share of state funds has gone from 3.6 percent in fiscal 1986 to 4.6 percent in fiscal 2012, an increase of 1 percent.22 This figure has remained more stable due to the rise in earmarked funds or trust funds in other program areas besides corrections that designate revenues for specific purposes set by statute. For example, higher education derives much of its state funding from designated revenue streams outside the general fund. To some extent, this trend may have insulated other program areas from budgetary pressures related to increased general fund spending for corrections."


"State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms," National Association of State Budget Officers (Washington, DC: NASBO, Sept. 11, 2013).