Cost of Young Adult Criminal in RI: $104,000/year

The New York Times is covering “the furor” that has been unleashed by the reclassifying of 17-year-olds as adults in the Rhode Island criminal justice system. Of the 17-year-olds who have been put into the adult system, 46 of them have already had stays at the ACI in Maximum Security for the price of $104,000 a year. Before, they were getting better rehabilitation and it was costing $98,000 a year. How does this make sense? From The New York Times:

The proposal to treat 17-year-olds as adults for criminal-justice purposes was the subject of a legislative hearing in March, where Attorney General Lynch, a Democrat whose office is elective, and others came out strongly against it. Opponents took little action after that, as many thought it would be killed in the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

But it survived, and before long it became apparent that the new law could well cost money rather than save it.

The State Department of Children, Youth and Families, which had proposed the idea, had assumed that 17-year-olds would be held among the general prison population, where incarceration costs $39,000 an inmate per year, 60 percent less than the $98,000 in the juvenile-offender system.

But A. T. Wall II, director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, decided that for the sake of the young inmates’ protection, they would be held in maximum security, where the annual per-inmate cost is $104,000.

As of last week, 46 17-year-olds had been held at the state prison since July 1, all in maximum security, said Tracey Z. Poole, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. [full text]

Another problem with this law is that it means more young adults will carry criminal records that may prevent them from getting jobs or make them ineligible for student financial aid.

Thanks for the link from RISLANDER (see Blog Ad in left-hand column), a Rhode Island blog run by URI professor Michael Vocino.