Drone flys under Arch and St. Louis Riverfront

St. Louis Can’t Afford To Put Criminals in Prison

Drone flies image of St. Louis Gateway Arch and St. Louis Riverfront Credit AI Person
Drone flies image of St. Louis Gateway Arch and St. Louis Riverfront Credit AI Person

The cost of housing prisoners in St. Louis, Missouri can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the size and level of security of the facility, the number of inmates housed, and the services provided to prisoners. What doesn’t vary is the ongoing complaints of overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and overall safety for both the prisoners and the security staff.

According to data from the Missouri Department of Corrections, the cost of housing an inmate in Missouri in 2021 was approximately $22,034 per year. However, this figure can vary depending on the specific facility and the level of security it provides. There has been multiple reports on the conditions of St. Louis jails.

The Workhouse St. Louis. credit craig currie
The Workhouse St. Louis. Credit AI Person

In St. Louis specifically, the cost of housing prisoners can be impacted by factors such as the cost of utilities, staffing levels, and healthcare costs for inmates. According to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice, the average daily cost of housing an inmate in St. Louis in 2017 was $76.08, which equates to an annual cost of approximately $27,766 per inmate.

Protester on Market and Tucker with Arch and Old Courthouse in back ground in Downtown St. Louis, MO.
Protester on Market and Tucker with Arch and Old Courthouse in back ground in Downtown St. Louis, MO.

The cost of housing prisoners vary across states, from about $18,000 per prisoner in Mississippi to $135,978 per prisoner in Wyoming in 2020.  Including all states, the average is about $45,771 per prisoner annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics documented that in 2021 the average salary for correctional officers in Missouri was at 34.55K.

Washington Avenue Entertainment District features dining in the street due to street being blocked off with barricades due to late-night racing in Downtown St. Louis. (AI 2020)
Washington Avenue Entertainment District features dining in the street due to street being blocked off with barricades due to late-night racing in Downtown St. Louis. (AI 2020)

It’s worth noting that these figures only represent the direct costs associated with housing prisoners and do not include other costs associated with the criminal justice system, such as court costs and the cost of probation and parole supervision.

Police presence and cameras along Washington Ave. in St. Louis.. credit AI 2020
Police presence and cameras along Washington Ave. in St. Louis. Credit AI Person 2020

Overall, the cost of housing prisoners in St. Louis can be significant, and the city has explored alternatives to incarceration as a means of reducing costs while still addressing public safety concerns.

Furthermore, incarcerating people can have negative effects on individuals and communities. Incarceration can lead to the loss of employment and housing, and perpetuate cycles of poverty and crime. It can also disproportionately affect marginalized communities, such as people of color and those with low incomes.

Ice Skating Rink during Winterfest at Kiener Plaza in Downtown St. Louis. AI Person Nov. 2021
Ice Skating Rink during Winterfest at Kiener Plaza in Downtown St. Louis. AI Person Nov. 2021

As a result, some cities and governments have been exploring cheaper alternatives to incarceration, such as using house arrest for sentencing, and community-based programs that provide support and resources to people instead of incarcerating them.