Reducing the prison budget without cutting services

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Philadelphia City Council: Councilman At-Large, Allan Domb





Organization Overview

Philadelphia City Council is the legislative branch of city government

Project Name

Reducing the prison budget without cutting services
Project Type: 
Needs Assessment, Strategic Plan

Project Overview

There are currently about 5,170 inmates throughout six facilities run by the city as of October 7, 2018. The city is working to get that population down even lower, a decline from its peak of 8,200 inmates. That figure includes men and women in facilities run by the city.

The department is spending $50,000 per inmate, and when you include fringe benefits the spending per inmate increases to $72,000. The City does not want to cut prison services like mental health treatment and recidivism programs, but it needs to research how to run our prisons more efficiently with the reduced inmate population.

This project will seek to better understand the prison’s budget problem and inform the City of next steps that can realistically be implemented to improve the prison’s budget transparency and reduce the cost per inmate. This research will require not only digging into the prisons’ budget documents and data but also planning and conducting stakeholder interviews in order to fully understand the current state and assess the needs for bringing about this reform. Potential recommendations and outcomes of this project might be recommending the prison commissioner hire a CFO, or proposing a call for an RFP for various prison services. But whatever the recommendations may be, the goal is for the proposed next steps and strategic plan for moving forward be informed by data and best practices to enhance efficiency.

PLEASE NOTE: This project may be done by either a full-time student or executive student, but may be more suited for a student who is able to dedicate time during regular business hours to interact with the Councilman’s office.

DELIVERABLES: A research paper presenting the data collected about the current state of the prison’s budget and why the cost per inmate has increased when the number of inmates has decreased. The research should be informed by the prison’s financial data as well as a wide breadth of stakeholder interviews conducted during this project. The paper should include a robust recommendations section that provides realistic next steps for the City to take to reduce the prison budget per inmate without cutting services.

Spots Available: 


Full-time or Executive

To Apply:

Contact Euria Chung at

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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