US Budget Study

Policing and Corrections Spending by State

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Police and corrections budgets became a flashpoint in 2020 due largely to nationwide protests and social unrest in the wake of highly publicized cases of excessive force by law enforcement officers. MoneyGeek analyzed the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data to see how much states spent on policing and corrections in 2019, the year before the protests began. We also compared spending in Democratic and Republican-controlled states to see how political leaning influenced state expenditures at that time.

Key Findings:
  • The U.S. spent $205 billion on law enforcement, amounting to $123 billion spent on policing and $82 billion on corrections.
  • Nevada and Washington, D.C. spent the most on police and corrections expenditures, both places with relatively low populations compared to other states.
  • Washington, D.C. had the highest per capita law enforcement spending ($1,296), while Kentucky had the lowest ($387).
  • Despite being considered tax-friendly states, Nevada and Florida spent the highest percentages of their budgets on law enforcement (7.4% and 7.2%, respectively).
  • While Democratic states spent 38% more per capita on law enforcement, both Republican and Democratic states spent about the same percentage of their budgets on policing and corrections (5.27% and 5.19%, respectively).

Which States Spend the Most on Policing and Corrections?

MoneyGeek analyzed police and corrections spending data for each state and ran a comparison to find the places that spend the most money on law enforcement. States were ranked using per capita spending and the proportion of total state and local spending to learn which states spend the most on policing and corrections. Each state was assessed on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more spending on policing and corrections per capita.

While police and corrections expenditures may be associated with geographically large areas with big populations, data shows Nevada (ranked No. 1) and Washington, D.C. (ranked No. 2) spend a more significant portion of their budgets on law enforcement than areas with more people.

While national per capita spending on law enforcement and corrections was $635 in 2019, per capita state spending ranged from $1,296 in Washington, D.C., to $387 in Kentucky. Nevada, one of MoneyGeek’s 10 most tax-friendly states in the U.S., spent 7.4% of its budget on law enforcement. Florida, another tax-friendly state, spent 7.2% of its budget on policing. Both states spent the highest proportion of their local and state expenditures on law enforcement, well above the national average of 5.17%.

Police and Corrections Spending by State

State
Rank
Score
Policing & Corrections Per Capita Spend
Policing & Corrections % of Total Spend
Policing & Corrections Expenditures ($ Millions)
Corrections Spend as % of Policing

Nevada

1

100.0

$718

7.40%

$2,212

58%

District of Columbia

2

92.2

$1,296

4.53%

$914

39%

Florida

3

91.0

$664

7.17%

$14,252

51%

Maryland

4

90.7

$813

6.51%

$4,917

66%

California

5

81.1

$907

5.62%

$35,829

72%

Arizona

6

80.4

$605

6.87%

$4,405

72%

Alaska

7

72.0

$986

4.81%

$722

88%

Delaware

8

69.5

$752

5.68%

$732

96%

New Mexico

9

69.4

$723

5.80%

$1,516

97%

Virginia

10

64.5

$631

5.94%

$5,388

109%

Rhode Island

11

61.8

$708

5.47%

$750

50%

Idaho

12

58.9

$523

6.11%

$935

93%

New York

13

56.7

$873

4.51%

$16,982

58%

Colorado

14

53.4

$622

5.41%

$3,581

68%

New Jersey

15

51.6

$656

5.16%

$5,831

61%

Illinois

16

50.9

$637

5.22%

$8,066

42%

Wisconsin

17

50.6

$598

5.36%

$3,482

77%

Oregon

18

49.9

$699

4.89%

$2,948

95%

Montana

19

49.5

$570

5.42%

$610

74%

Wyoming

20

48.9

$779

4.50%

$451

99%

North Carolina

21

48.3

$536

5.51%

$5,621

60%

Pennsylvania

22

47.5

$632

5.06%

$8,087

88%

Minnesota

23

44.5

$630

4.91%

$3,551

49%

New Hampshire

24

41.8

$515

5.26%

$701

46%

Texas

25

41.6

$523

5.22%

$15,164

73%

Georgia

26

41.5

$472

5.43%

$5,010

76%

Tennessee

27

39.9

$502

5.22%

$3,432

54%

Michigan

28

37.1

$535

4.94%

$5,344

93%

Oklahoma

29

36.8

$475

5.18%

$1,878

67%

Louisiana

30

36.8

$537

4.91%

$2,498

56%

South Dakota

31

33.8

$473

5.03%

$418

87%

Missouri

32

33.6

$480

4.99%

$2,947

50%

Ohio

33

32.1

$540

4.66%

$6,311

55%

Nebraska

34

31.4

$559

4.54%

$1,082

104%

Kansas

35

29.6

$509

4.66%

$1,482

58%

Connecticut

36

25.8

$530

4.37%

$1,889

52%

Massachusetts

37

24.3

$583

4.07%

$4,018

67%

Vermont

38

24.0

$570

4.11%

$356

68%

Washington

39

21.9

$545

4.11%

$4,148

77%

Utah

40

21.8

$475

4.40%

$1,524

64%

West Virginia

41

19.8

$459

4.37%

$822

93%

Alabama

42

18.8

$449

4.36%

$2,200

62%

Hawaii

43

18.6

$529

4.01%

$749

48%

North Dakota

44

17.7

$532

3.95%

$405

78%

Arkansas

45

15.3

$413

4.33%

$1,247

73%

Mississippi

46

15.0

$435

4.22%

$1,295

65%

South Carolina

47

13.9

$434

4.17%

$2,233

57%

Maine

48

12.2

$423

4.13%

$569

74%

Indiana

49

9.8

$397

4.12%

$2,673

73%

Kentucky

50

0.9

$387

3.70%

$1,728

111%

Iowa

51

0.0

$418

3.52%

$1,319

53%

United States

$625

5.17%

$205,222

67%

Democratic and Republican State Policing and Corrections Spending

Our analysis of per capita spending found that blue states spent 38% more on policing and corrections than red states in 2019. Interestingly, red states spent slightly more of their total budget on policing: 5.3% compared to blue states' 5.2%.

Detailed Findings

The detailed findings of MoneyGeek's analysis break down the spending on policing and corrections individually. Some states vary widely, with increased or decreased spending on one category over the other.

Police Spending

State
Rank
Score
Policing Per Capita Spend
Policing % of Total Spend
Policing Expenditures ($ Millions)

District of Columbia

1

100.0

$931

3.26%

$657

Florida

2

89.5

$440

4.75%

$9,457

Nevada

3

89.5

$455

4.69%

$1,403

Maryland

4

75.3

$489

3.92%

$2,958

Rhode Island

5

67.3

$470

3.64%

$498

Illinois

6

66.2

$448

3.67%

$5,683

Arizona

7

64.8

$352

4.00%

$2,562

California

8

64.0

$526

3.26%

$20,795

New York

9

57.3

$553

2.85%

$10,757

New Hampshire

10

56.3

$354

3.61%

$481

Minnesota

11

55.4

$422

3.29%

$2,379

New Jersey

12

52.1

$407

3.21%

$3,619

North Carolina

13

50.7

$334

3.43%

$3,504

Tennessee

14

49.1

$327

3.39%

$2,232

Colorado

15

49.1

$370

3.22%

$2,132

Alaska

16

48.0

$524

2.55%

$383

Missouri

17

47.3

$321

3.33%

$1,971

Louisiana

18

45.1

$344

3.14%

$1,600

Montana

19

43.3

$328

3.12%

$351

Delaware

20

43.0

$383

2.89%

$373

New Mexico

21

42.7

$367

2.94%

$769

Wisconsin

22

42.3

$339

3.04%

$1,972

Ohio

23

42.2

$348

3.00%

$4,064

Connecticut

24

39.6

$349

2.88%

$1,243

Idaho

25

39.1

$271

3.17%

$484

Oklahoma

26

38.8

$284

3.10%

$1,124

Kansas

27

38.6

$321

2.94%

$936

Texas

28

38.5

$302

3.01%

$8,761

Georgia

29

37.1

$268

3.09%

$2,849

Hawaii

30

36.8

$358

2.71%

$507

Virginia

31

34.6

$302

2.84%

$2,576

Pennsylvania

32

34.5

$337

2.69%

$4,309

Oregon

33

32.4

$359

2.51%

$1,513

Utah

34

30.3

$291

2.69%

$931

Massachusetts

35

30.1

$350

2.45%

$2,412

Wyoming

36

29.7

$391

2.26%

$226

Vermont

37

29.4

$340

2.45%

$212

Alabama

38

29.3

$278

2.70%

$1,362

South Carolina

39

28.3

$277

2.66%

$1,424

South Dakota

40

26.8

$253

2.69%

$223

Michigan

41

26.3

$278

2.56%

$2,773

Mississippi

42

25.0

$264

2.56%

$785

Washington

43

23.5

$307

2.32%

$2,340

Arkansas

44

21.7

$239

2.51%

$723

North Dakota

45

20.5

$299

2.22%

$228

Iowa

46

20.0

$273

2.30%

$861

Maine

47

19.1

$244

2.38%

$328

Nebraska

48

18.5

$274

2.23%

$531

Indiana

49

17.7

$229

2.37%

$1,541

West Virginia

50

16.0

$237

2.26%

$426

Kentucky

51

0.0

$184

1.76%

$821

United States

46.9

$375

3.10%

$123,046

Corrections Spending

State
Rank
Score
Corrections Per Capita Spend
Corrections % of Total Spend
Corrections Expenditures ($ Millions)

Virginia

1

100.0

$330

3.10%

$2,813

Alaska

2

98.1

$463

2.26%

$338

Delaware

3

97.5

$369

2.79%

$360

New Mexico

4

97.2

$356

2.86%

$747

California

5

85.1

$380

2.36%

$15,034

Wyoming

6

82.7

$388

2.24%

$224

Maryland

7

82.0

$324

2.60%

$1,960

Idaho

8

79.4

$252

2.95%

$450

Oregon

9

77.9

$340

2.38%

$1,435

Arizona

10

77.3

$253

2.87%

$1,843

Nevada

11

73.5

$263

2.71%

$809

Pennsylvania

12

68.3

$295

2.36%

$3,778

Nebraska

13

64.5

$285

2.31%

$551

Michigan

14

61.3

$257

2.37%

$2,571

Wisconsin

15

60.0

$259

2.33%

$1,510

Montana

16

55.7

$242

2.30%

$259

Florida

17

55.7

$223

2.41%

$4,796

Colorado

18

53.8

$252

2.19%

$1,449

South Dakota

19

52.8

$220

2.34%

$195

Georgia

20

49.4

$204

2.34%

$2,161

New York

21

49.3

$320

1.65%

$6,225

Texas

22

48.2

$221

2.20%

$6,403

New Jersey

23

45.5

$249

1.96%

$2,211

District of Columbia

24

45.5

$364

1.28%

$257

West Virginia

25

45.0

$221

2.11%

$397

North Carolina

26

40.1

$202

2.07%

$2,117

Rhode Island

27

39.1

$237

1.84%

$251

Oklahoma

28

37.9

$190

2.08%

$754

Washington

29

37.6

$237

1.79%

$1,808

Kentucky

30

35.9

$203

1.94%

$907

North Dakota

31

34.7

$233

1.73%

$178

Vermont

32

31.6

$230

1.66%

$143

Massachusetts

33

31.2

$233

1.63%

$1,605

Louisiana

34

27.9

$193

1.76%

$898

Tennessee

35

26.4

$176

1.82%

$1,200

Minnesota

36

26.0

$208

1.62%

$1,172

Arkansas

37

25.9

$174

1.82%

$524

Kansas

38

25.2

$188

1.72%

$547

Maine

39

24.6

$179

1.75%

$241

Utah

40

24.4

$185

1.71%

$592

Ohio

41

24.1

$192

1.66%

$2,246

Indiana

42

22.2

$168

1.74%

$1,132

Mississippi

43

20.1

$171

1.66%

$510

Alabama

44

20.0

$171

1.66%

$838

Illinois

45

19.3

$188

1.54%

$2,383

New Hampshire

46

17.8

$162

1.65%

$220

Missouri

47

17.3

$159

1.65%

$977

Connecticut

48

16.5

$181

1.50%

$646

South Carolina

49

12.2

$157

1.51%

$809

Hawaii

50

7.6

$171

1.29%

$242

Iowa

51

0.0

$145

1.22%

$458

United States

49.6

$250

2.07%

$82,175

Expert Insight on Police Spending and State Budgeting

States obtain funds through a combination of state, local and property taxes. Additional revenue may also come from tourism and various types of licenses. To get a better sense of how state policing and corrections budgets can affect people served by these systems, we spoke to experts familiar with state and local budgets and how police and corrections expenditures affect other programs.

  1. How does state spending on policing and corrections affect local areas?
  2. How can taxpayers let states and cities know how they feel about expenditures on corrections and policing?
  3. Corrections spending represents 40% of the combined spending on policing and corrections. How are these expenditures related, and what does this spending mean for state and local budgets?
Josh Michtom
Josh Michtom

Hartford City Councilman and Public Defender

Dr. Christine Castro
Dr. Christine Castro

Ph.D. in American Studies

Bennett Capers
Bennett Capers

Professor of Law and Director of the Center on Race, Law, and Justice at Fordham Law School

Methodology

To determine which states spend the most and least on policing and corrections, MoneyGeek reviewed expenditures for each state, including state and local (municipal and county) government expenditures. We then used the following metrics to determine final scores and rankings:

  • Per Capita Spend on Policing and Corrections (full weight, 50%): This value is calculated as the combined expenditures on policing and corrections divided by the state's population and is scaled to a range from 0 to 100.

  • Police and Corrections Spend as a Percentage of All Spend (full weight, 50%): This value is calculated as the combined policing and corrections expenditures divided by the total amounts spent by state and local governments and is scaled to a range from 0 to 100.


Red and blue labels were used to define each state by the voting history in the past five presidential elections. States where the republican candidate won three out of the five elections were labeled as red, and states where the Democratic candidate won three out of the five elections were labeled as blue.

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