The Prison Visit That Cost My Family $2,370

Source: Eli Hager & Rui Kaneya, The Marshall Project, April 12, 2016

After decades of tough-on-crime policies, Hawaii is one of four states that solve their prison crowding problem by shipping inmates out of state, usually to facilities run by for-profit companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. California prisoners go to Arizona and to the Mississippi Delta; Vermont prisoners go to a remote corner of Michigan; and Arkansas prisoners go to Texas. The U.S. Virgin Islands also sends its prisoners away, to Florida, Arizona and Virginia. … In all, more than 7,200 state prisoners across the nation are housed this way. That number may rise if Washington state follows through on a contract to send its overflow inmates to a GEO facility in Michigan or if North Dakota sends inmates to a CCA facility in Colorado, which the corrections director there has said is a possibility within the next few months. … Hawaii first began sending prisoners en masse to mainland prisons in 1995, when it secured beds in a privately run Texas facility. Over the years, Hawaii expanded the practice, shipping thousands of prisoners to 14 facilities across eight states.Today, under a $30-million-a-year contract with CCA, the state sends all its overflow prisoners to Saguaro, which was opened just for Hawaii in 2007 …

Hawaii pays CCA about $70 a day to house each inmate at Saguaro, compared with an average of $140 a day for an inmate at any of the four prisons back home. In Vermont, an out-of-state prison bed costs about $62 per day; in-state, the price tag is $162. For the U.S. Virgin islands, the choice is between as little as $67 on the mainland, versus $150 on the islands. (California’s complicated budget picture makes it more difficult to make a similar comparison.) … CCA is paid up to about $185 million per year by California and Hawaii for out-of-state space, and GEO gets as much as about $15 million a year from Vermont to house prisoners in Michigan. Arkansas spends up to $4.75 million a year for LaSalle Southwest Corrections to operate the jail in Bowie County, Texas, where its overflow inmates are kept.