Examining Carceral Spending Across the United States

Every year, cities and counties propose and pass budgets that have immense consequences on communities and the people who comprise them. The tax dollars that undergird these budgets have the potential to uplift disinvested neighborhoods, expand opportunities for children, and provide residents with vital resources. Unfortunately, research has shown that government leaders across the United States are increasingly dedicating more funds to carceral systems that undermine community well-being and safety.

To shed further light on the portion of tax dollars that local governments spend on policing and incarceration, the National Equity Atlas has developed a new data dashboard — At What Cost? Examining Police, Sheriff, and Jail Budgets Across the US. The dashboard, which was created in partnership with Civilytics Consulting, provides a comprehensive look at the fiscal year 2022 budget allocations of 20 US cities and counties. It also parses out city- and county-level budget data to highlight differences between carceral spending and investments in social services.


Guiding Resources


The National Equity Atlas appreciates the many individuals and advisers who made invaluable contributions to this research project. We thank Seleeke Flingai of PolicyLink for shepherding this project; Selena Tan, Michelle Huang, and Ryan Fukumori of PolicyLink and Erin Waldron of Data Dozen for Tableau design support; Jennifer Tran and Ashleigh Gardere of PolicyLink for their guidance and feedback; and Gabriel Charles Tyler, Nyaka Mwanza, and Heather Tamir of PolicyLink for providing communications support. Thanks to the following members of the inaugural cohort of National Equity Atlas Fellows for participating in the dashboard's development: Sheba Y. Rogers, Kyra Brown, Gina Womack, Marcus D. Carson, and Mae Whiting. Additional thanks to Jared Knowles and Hannah Miller of Civilytics Consulting for assembling the data that undergirds the dashboard. And special thanks to Sara Mokuria and Hena Khairzadah of the Building Beyond Policing Network for their partnership in envisioning this tool and bringing it to life.