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Justice Expenditure and Employment, 1988

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 1990

Federal, State, and local governments spent $61 billion in fiscal year 1988 for civil and criminal justice, an increase of 34 percent since 1985.


Over the 3-year period, justice spending increased more than total government spending for all activities. About 3 cents of every government dollar spent was for justice activities: 1.5 cents for police protection, 1 cent for corrections, and 0.7 cents for judicial and legal services. The Federal Government spent less than 1 cent of every dollar for justice, State governments 6 cents, and local governments almost 7 cents. Compared to justice expenditures, Federal, State, and local governments spent 6 times as much on social insurance payments, 5 times as much on national defense and international relations, 4 times as much on education, 3 times as much as interest on debt, 2.5 times as much on housing and the environment, and almost twice as much on public welfare. Reflecting the fact that civil and criminal justice is primarily a State and local responsibility, State and local governments spent 88 percent of all justice dollars, while the Federal Government spent 12 percent. State and local per capita spending was highest in the northeast and west and lowest in the south and midwest. All levels of government spent a greater proportion of their corrections dollars on institutions versus probation, parole, and pardon. As of October 1988, the nation's civil and criminal justice system employed 1.6 million persons. 14 tables

Date Published: July 1, 1990