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Cost of Supervision
Fiscal Year 1997-98

Last updated March 31, 1999

North Carolina's prison system consists of 82 prison units of various sizes with 17 of the units having a standard operating capacity of less than 90 inmates. The four smallest units--Wilmington, Alamance, Stokes and Yancey--have a standard operating capacity of 26, 46, 46, and 46 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 1997-98 per inmate daily operating cost of the 46 bed medium security prison unit at Yancey County was $112.03 compared to the $52.54 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 1997-98 was $62.41 per day.


close 78.64
medium 67.44
minimum 51.27
average 62.41

There is a broad variation of costs per inmate within the security levels in fiscal year 1997-98. Facilities that house close custody inmates ranged in cost from $56.50 for Pasquotank Correctional Institution (standard operating capacity of 864) to $152.32 for Blanch Correctional Institution (standard operating capacity of 80). For medium custody, the costs ranged from $50.26 per day for Craggy Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of average daily population of 312) to $112.03 at Yancey Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of 46). Minimum security facilities ranged from $33.86 at Rutherford Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of average daily population of 190) to $89.46 at Scotland Correctional Center (standard operating capacity of 44).

Making the Prison System More Efficient
In the last four years, the department has taken steps to improve the efficiency of operations. Fourteen 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
Alexander Correctional Center minimum 1998 75.58 FY 97-98 46
Martin Correctional Center minimum 1998 107.97 FY 97-98 30
Mecklenburg Correctional Center minimum 1998 56.21 FY 97-98 76
Sandy Ridge Correctional Center minimum 1998 56.14 FY 97-98 44
Watauga Correctional Center minimum 1998 71.24 FY 97-98 48

The General Assembly directed the department to close Alexander, Davie, Martin, Mecklenburg, Moore, Richmond, Rockingham and Sandy Ridge 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 and Yancey correctional centers. Watauga Correctional Center was closed in Dec. 1998 as part of this project.

Avery Correctional Center medium 99.99 48
Watauga Correctional Center minimum 71.24 48
Yancey Correctional Center medium 112.03 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 the prison to increase the efficiency of operation.

In FY 98-99, the legislature provided for two prisons--Stanly and Union correctional centers--to be converted from medium to minimum security.

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