Home / Content / Economics of Prison: Modeling the Dynamics of Recidivism

Economics of Prison: Modeling the Dynamics of Recidivism


In Arizona each prisoner costs the state an average of $25,397 per year, the approximate cost of attending Arizona State University. Based on the current population of inmates this adds up to over 1 billion dollars annually. This figure is 5 times more than is spent on public assistance and about 70 percent of what is spent on transportation in the entire state. In addition to that, 40 percent of those who leave the prison return which further increases the costs on the state. In an effort to decrease costs the government of Arizona hopes to implement programs into their prison system in order to lower the recidivism rate and decrease costs. Multiple studies have shown recidivism is reduced when education and transition programs are incorporated. Currently, Arizona funds most of the GED program, excluding testing, while an inmate is incarcerated. Unfortunately, this education does not continue after the inmate is released. Meanwhile, other states have successfully incorporated education in order to reduce recidivism. In an effort to analyze recidivism in Arizona we have developed and analyzed a data-driven mathematical model that captures the dynamics of prisoners while in and out of prison based on their education status. This model, a system of differential equations, helped to estimate the cost associated with different educational programs in and outside of prison to the cost of recidivism. As a result we were able to study the economic impact of implementing these transition programs which we proved to be cost efficient. We found that the transition programs would eventually pay for themselves as a higher proportion of inmates enroll in the program. We were also able to show that it was possible to completely eliminate recidivism as the length of the program increased and enough inmates enrolled in the transition program after being released.




Alejandra Lopez - Arizona State University

Naomi Moreira - St. Joseph’s College

Ariana Rivera - Yachay Tech University

Bechir Amdouni - Arizona State University

Baltazar Espinoza - Arizona State University

Christopher M Kribs University of Texas at Arlington


PDF icon prisons.pdf