US Budget Study
Policing and Corrections Spending by State
- Policing and Corrections Spend by State
Police and corrections budgets became a flashpoint in 2020 due largely to nationwide protests and social unrest brought on by highly publicized cases of excessive force by some law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement budgets are being reevaluated as some jurisdictions consider police spending cuts or reallocation of funds. Local and state government budgets for policing and corrections include sentencing, incarceration and probation. MoneyGeek’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that law enforcement spending in the U.S. was $200 billion in 2018, which breaks down to $119 billion on policing and $81 billion on corrections.
MoneyGeek analyzed police and corrections spending data for each state to determine which states spend the most on policing and corrections. States were ranked using per capita spending and the proportion of total state and local spending. Each state was assessed on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more spending on policing and corrections per capita.
Which States Spend the Most on Policing and Corrections?
While police and corrections expenditures may be associated with larger or more densely populated states, data shows Nevada (ranked No. 1) and Alaska (ranked No. 2) spend a larger portion of their budgets on law enforcement than states with higher populations and more metropolitan areas.
While national per capita spending on law enforcement and corrections was $612 in 2018, per capita state spending ranged from $1,254 in Washington, D.C. to $393 in Indiana. Nevada, one of MoneyGeek’s 10 most tax-friendly states in the U.S., spent 7.8% of its budget on law enforcement. Florida, another tax-friendly state, spent 7.3% of its budgets on policing. Both states spent the highest proportion of their local and state expenditures on law enforcement, well above the national average of 5.3%.
Police and Corrections Spending by State
Democratic and Republican State Policing and Corrections Spending
Analysis of per capita spending finds that blue states spend 38% more on policing and corrections than red states. When analyzing the proportion of their budgets on policing and corrections, both red and blue spend about 5.3% of their state budgets.
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.
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.
- How does state spending on policing and corrections affect local areas?
- How can taxpayers let states and cities know how they feel about expenditures on corrections and policing?
- 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?
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.
About the Author
Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer based in Mississippi. She enjoys poring over data that can help millennials make better financial choices.
- PEW. "Where States Get Their Money Will Shape Pandemic’s Fiscal Fallout." Accessed October 12, 2020.
- U.S. Census. "2018 National and State Population Estimates." Accessed September 22, 2020.
- U.S. Census. "2018 State & Local Government Finance Historical Datasets and Tables." Accessed September 22, 2020.