Health care costs in New York’s prisons are skyrocketing even as the prison population declines.
The biggest reason: a city dweller is twice as likely to be mentally ill today as it was a decade ago, and treatment costs more.
From 2010 to 2020, health care corrective tax dollars rose 76% – from $ 197 million to $ 347 million, new figures from the city’s Independent Budget Office show. At the same time, the number of perpetrators fell by half – from 13,000 to around 6,500.
Even more astonishing is the spending per prisoner that three city agencies – the Corrections and Health Departments and NYC Health + Hospitals – have made over the past 10 years, the IBO analysis shows.
In 2010, the city spent an average of $ 41 per 13,000 inmates. This year, that average was $ 147 – 256% higher – for each of $ 6,500.
In the same years, according to the IBO, the number of mentally ill offenders rose from 29% to 48%, indicating that treatment costs more.
And spending rose after the de Blasio government shut down two outside providers – for-profit Corizon and nonprofit Damian Family Care Centers – and moved care to city hospitals. The mayor ditched Corizon for poor general care that had been unearthed by the Ministry of Inquiry and decided to end Damian’s dentist contract at the same time.
When the hospital system took over, the total cost increased 52% – from $ 228.6 million in 2015 to $ 346.7 million in 2020 – and more than half of that money went into treating the mentally ill, drug addicts, and people with hepatitis C, a related disease needle share.
The hospital’s Correction Health Services department has hired more psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and doctors specializing in drug addiction, and is helping offenders – both drug addicts and the mentally ill – get into community-based programs, spokeswoman Jeanette Merrill said.
“We pride ourselves on delivering quality healthcare … with dignity and respect.”