Today, 1 in every 70 adult Tennesseans is in jail or prison. It costs Tennessee taxpayers about $30,000 annually—or $2,200 per month—to incarcerate a single person. 46% of all people released from prison return to within three years.
Between 2000 and 2013 the Tennessee prison population grew at a rate of 30%, while the state’s total population only increased by 13%. This number is dwarfed by the fact that the Tennessee prison population grew by 256% between 1981 and 2013. The exponential growth of Tennessee’s incarceration rate has pushed more than one-third of the state’s prisons to operate over capacity. Another third are bordering on capacity.
The cost to incarcerate a single person each month—$2,200—is twice the median mortgage payment and three times the median rent in Tennessee. Annually, Tennessee taxpayers are spending $30,000 to incarcerate a single person, without receiving an adequate public safety return from these expenditures. The state’s crime rate has remained above the national average, and the recidivism rate stands at 46% within three years of release.