North Carolina Department of Correction
Division of Prisons

Cost of Supervision
FY 1996-97

North Carolina's prison system consists of 88 prison units of various sizes with 23 of the units having a standard operating capacity of less than 90 inmates. The three smallest units--Wilmington, Martin and Sandy Ridge--have a standard operating capacity of 26, 30, and 44 respectively. The largest facility, Central Prison, has a capacity of 942. The state's legacy of small prisons comes from its history. Most prisons were built during the Depression years when the state assumed responsibility from the counties for housing prison road crews.

This legacy, coupled with the large number of small prison units, is what drives up the cost of North Carolina's prison system. For example, the Fiscal Year 1996-97 per inmate daily operating cost of the 46 bed medium security prison unit at Yancey County was $110.78 compared to the $50.22 per inmate daily operating cost of the 832 bed medium security unit at Brown Creek, a new prison expanded with a recent dormitory addition. Thus, it is readily apparent that the economy of scale spreads out the fixed operating costs in larger units operated by the Division of Prisons and lowers the per inmate average daily operating costs.

Costs for Housing Prisoners in North Carolina
The system wide average operational cost for housing inmates in North Carolina prisons in Fiscal Year 1996-97 was $62.27 per day.


close 79.96
medium 67.85
minimum 53.63
average 63.27

There is a broad variation of costs per inmate within the security levels in fiscal year 1996-97. Facilities that house close custody inmates ranged in cost from $53.73 for Southern Correctional Institution (standard operating capacity of 604) to $125.48 for Blanch Correctional Institution (standard operating capacity of 80). For medium custody, the costs ranged from $49.54 per day for Columbus Correctional Institution (standard operating capacity of average daily population of 584) to $102.34 at Avery Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of 48). Minimum security facilities ranged from $31.4 at Charlotte Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of average daily population of 214) to $93.20 at Scotland Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of 44).

Making the Prison System More Efficient
In the last two years, the department has taken steps to improve the efficiency of operations. Seven prisons built in the 1930s and rendered less efficient by federal court rulings that reduced capacity and required increased staffing have been closed.

Moore Correctional Center medium 1995 131.85 FY 94-95 42
Richmond Correctional Center minimum 1995 120.73 FY 94-95 26
Granville Correctional Center minimum 1996 87.17 FY 95-96 36
Halifax Correctional Center minimum 1996 60.60 FY 95-96 40
Person Correctional Center minimum 1996 79.48 FY 95-96 44
Rockingham Correctional Center medium 1996 96.12 FY 95-96 52
Vance Correctional Center medium 1996 121.95 FY 95-96 44
Warren Correctional Center minimum 1997 122.57 FY 95-96 56
Davie Correctional Center medium 1997 84.56 FY 96-97 48

The General Assembly directed the department to close Davie, Moore, Richmond and Rockingham correctional centers. The operations of Granville, Halifax, Person, Vance and Warren correctional centers were consolidated into Warren Correctional Institution.

Another consolidation project is underway in western North Carolina. A prison is under construction on the Avery and Mitchell county line that will allow consolidation of the Avery, Watauga and Yancey correctional centers.

Avery Correctional Center medium 96.82 48
Watauga Correctional Center minimum 66.38 48
Yancey Correctional Center medium 107.69 46

In FY 97-98, the legislature provided for three prisons--Alexander, Scotland and Yadkin correctional centers--to be converted from medium to minimum security. The change in security reduced staff allowing an increase in the efficiency of operation.

In FY 98-99, the legislature provided that four prisons--Alexander, Martin, Mecklenburg and Sandy Ridge correctional centers--be closed. The prisons will close by the end of January 1999. The legislature provided for two prisons--Stanly and Union correctional centers--to be converted from medium to minimum security.