No Peace Dividend From The Department of Corrections

The New York Times reported today that New York City’s jail population is way down. “Among the 50 jurisdictions in the country with the greatest number of inmates, including larger cities and urban counties, New York ranks 47th in the average number of inmates jailed on any given day relative to its total population, according to a survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative.”

That’s strange because when I tabulated local government corrections employment per 100,000 residents using employment and payroll data from the 2007 Census of Governments, I found that New York City’s average of 160 was nearly double the U.S. average of 86. The data is in the spreadsheet attached to the post.  The figure is 74 for Los Angeles County, 110 for Cook County (Chicago), and 97 for Harris County (Houston). The only places that seem to be similar to NYC is older cities co-terminus (or nearly so) with county boundaries, such as San Francisco (172), Washington DC (215), Suffolk County Mass (Boston) 151, and Philadelphia County (168). Some of these places have more crime than New York, but the amount of inmates doesn’t seem to be what is driving corrections employment here.

New York City's police officer employment is even higher relative to the national average and other places, although our crime is now average. This can only be justified on the assumption that New Yorkers are inherently criminal, and require more than average protection from each other. Or its law enforcement system requires more enforcers to provide the same level of protection that others provide for less.