Justice System Expenditures in Alaska and the Nation: A BJS Report

Justice System Expenditures in Alaska and the Nation: A BJS Report

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Winter 2002). "Justice System Expenditures in Alaska and the Nation: A BJS Report." Alaska Justice Forum 18(4): 1, 6-8. In 1999, Alaska spent more per capita on justice functions than any other state-almost $725 per person-while the percentage of local and state employees working in the justice system in Alaska was among the lowest. This article examines justice expenditures and employment in Alaska and the nation. U.S. justice system expenditures increased 309 percent between 1982 and 1999, when the nation spent a record $147 billion for police protection, corrections, and judicial and legal activities.

In 1999, Alaska spent more per capita on justice functions than any other state—almost $725 per person. The national average was $442 per capita. Of the $725, just over $283 was spent on law enforcement, $195 on judicial and legal functions, and $246 on corrections.

While the per capita expenditures were the highest among the states, the percentage of local and state employees working in the justice system in Alaska was among the lowest. Only nine percent of Alaska's state workers were so employed, compared to a national average of almost 13 percent. Close to 4400 individuals worked in state and local justice positions in Alaska in 1999.

In 1999, the United States spent a record $147 billion for police protection, corrections, and judicial and legal activities. The nation's expenditure for operations and outlay of the justice system increased 309 percent from almost $36 billion in 1982. (Discounting inflation, that represents a 145 percent increase in constant dollars.)

Local governments funded more than half of all justice system expenses. Another 39 percent of justice funding came from the states.

Criminal and civil justice expenditures comprised approximately 7.7 percent of all state and local public expenditures in 1999. Compared to justice expenditures, state and local governments in the United States spent almost four times as much on education, almost twice as much on public welfare, and a roughly equal amount on hospitals and health care.

In March 1999, the nation's justice system employed nearly 2.2 million persons, with a total March payroll of $7.2 billion. More than half of all justice employees worked at the local level. A third were state employees. The remaining 8.7 percent were federal employees, more than half of whom worked in police protection.

Expansion of the Nation's Justice System, 1982-1999

The increase in justice expenditures over nearly 20 years reflects the expansion of the nation's justice system. For example, in 1982 the justice system employed approximately 1.27 million persons; in 1999 it reached over 2 million.

Police protection. One indicator of police workload, the FBI's arrest estimates for state and local police agencies, grew from 12 million in 1982 to an estimated 14 million in 1999. The number of employees in police work increased from approximately 724,000 to over one million.

Judicial and legal. The judicial and legal workload, including civil and criminal cases, prosecutor functions, and public defender services also expanded during this period. Cases filed in general and limited jurisdiction state courts went from about 86 million to 91 million in 15-year period from 1984 to 1999. The juvenile court workload also expanded from one million delinquency cases in 1982 to 1.8 million in 1998. The total of judicial and legal employees grew about 84 percent to 455,000 persons in 1999.

Corrections. The total number of state and federal inmates grew from 400,000 in 1982 to nearly 1,300,000 in 1999. This was accompanied by the opening of over 600 state and at least 51 federal correctional facilities. The number of local jail inmates also tripled, from approximately 200,000 in 1982 to 600,000 in 1999. Adults on probation increased from over 1.3 to nearly 3.8 million persons. Overall, corrections employment more than doubled from nearly 300,000 to over 716,000 during this period.

This article is based on the BJS Bulletin "Justice Expenditures and Employment in the United States, 1999," NCJ-191746.