When families in Illinois need to tighten their belts, cable TV is often one of the first expenses to go. A state nearing bankruptcy should do the same.
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) racked up a cable bill of $2,261,009 between July 2010 and June 2012. Popular channels included in this bill were MTV, CMT, Fox Sports, ESPN, BET, the Home Shopping Network, Speed and Spike TV.
Spending more than $2 million on cable TV for inmates is something Illinois canít afford, especially considering the stateís already costly prison system. The taxpayer cost of prisons per inmate in Illinois ($38,268) is high relative to other states in the Midwest: Indiana ($14,823), Missouri ($22,350), Iowa ($32,925) and Wisconsin ($37,994).
In fact, Illinois spends more per inmate ($38,268) than it does per student in K-12 education ($11,663).
The IDOCís budget had a $1.2 billion price tag in 2010. However, when including employee benefits, pensions, health care, capital costs and administrative costs, the total state cost of prisons soars by $566 million to $1.7 billion. And taxpayers are on the hook for every dime.
Cable TV might be a small part of that total, but itís indicative of how government canít seem to stop spending money, even in the midst of a budget crisis. Prison costs are skyrocketing and the state is shutting down facilities to save money and asking the feds to bail out their prison failures.
The cable bill for inmates is paid from the Inmate Benefit Fund which is owned by the Illinois Department of Corrections. The money in this fund, much of which comes from commissary sales, is state money. It should be worrisome that the state is wasting taxpayer dollars to fund multimillion dollar cable bills for inmates.