Health care costs at New York’s jails are skyrocketing, even as the prisoner population plummets.
The biggest reason: A city inmate is twice as likely to be mentally ill now than a decade ago, and that costs more to treat.
From 2010 to 2020, taxpayer money spent for correction health services surged 76% — from $197 million to $347 million, new numbers from the city’s Independent Budget Office show. At the same time, the number of offenders fell by half — from 13,000 to about 6,500.
Per-prisoner spending over the 10 years by three city agencies — the Correction and Health departments, along with NYC Health + Hospitals — is even more astounding, the IBO analysis shows.
In 2010, the city spent a daily average of $41 for each of 13,000 inmates. This year, that average was $147 — 256% higher — for each of 6,500.
In those same years, the IBO notes, the number of mentally ill offenders increased from 29% to 48%, which indicates they cost more to treat.
And spending has climbed after the de Blasio administration dropped two outside providers — for-profit Corizon and nonprofit Damian Family Care Centers — and shifted care to city hospitals. The mayor dropped Corizon for shoddy general care unearthed by the Department of Investigation and opted to end Damian’s dental contract at the same time.
When the hospital system took over, total costs grew 52% — from $228.6 million in 2015 to $346.7 million in 2020 — and more than half that money has gone to treat the mentally ill, drug addicts and those with hepatitis C, a condition tied to needle sharing.
The hospital’s Correction Health Services division 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, said spokeswoman Jeanette Merrill.
“We are proud to deliver high-quality health care… with dignity and respect.”