It is no secret that many prison facilities are outdated, understaffed, and overcrowded. Sadly, these problems can all be traced back to being underfunded. With large pressing problems like this, it makes the idea of certain energy upgrades in prisons like installing a new LED light fixture or flow meters on hydronic components seem miniscule.
“There's only three ways to spend the taxpayer's hard-earned when it comes to prisons. More walls. More bars. More guards.”
– Shawshank Redemption
Although it may seem like this statement is true, most of the costs associated with state-run facilities is lumped into personnel costs within the operating expenses. Salaries, overtime, and benefits comprise more than 66% of the cost to run state facilities. Additionally, an average of 17% of funding across the nation went to facility maintenance, prison programs, debt services, and legal judgments. This data tells us that most of the cost of prisons goes, unsurprisingly, to operating costs. The operating costs can range from your day-to-day maintenance, to the utility bills, to providing food and supervision for inmates. The average salary of correctional officers (CO) in the U.S. is $37,717 per year, so adding even one more CO to help an understaffed facility can have a substantial effect on a facility's budget.
The Solution – Lower Operating Costs
However, the problem with initiatives and projects to reduce operating costs is that they are met with red tape. Every state has their own nuances, but all capital expenditures go through lengthy processes to determine what is necessary and when. So, how can a facility take control of their own operating costs without the capital expenditures? For multiple energy efficiency and water conservation measures in one project, energy service performance contracts (ESCO) can be a powerful tool if managed properly. These projects can range from low flow facets, to LED lighting, to control systems, to mechanical system replacements.
However, some states have different laws regarding performance contracts, so if this route is not an option, individual conservation measures can be implemented creatively. For example, demand control kitchen ventilation is a relatively low-cost measure with a high ROI, making it a versatile measure for performance contracts as a standalone facility upgrade. By slowing the kitchen exhaust fans in relation to the cooking activity, savings are realized through fan energy reduction and the reduction of conditioned air that is wasted. In many cases, there are even lease options among other financing routes that could make your project cash flow positive from the first month of implementation! With the saved money that would be going toward the electric bill, the extra cash can be used for other costs across the facility.
Putting Your Savings to Work
Implementing energy efficiency products like DCKV can save you money, but how much are we talking? For a large facility, let’s say you save $30,000 a year on your electric and conditioned air. In North Carolina, that is enough to cover the cost of one inmate for 335 days or 335 inmates for one day. In Florida, that is enough to cover the costs to house and supervise one inmate for 561 days or the salary of an entry level Correctional Officer. Why is Florida’s cost per inmate so much less than North Carolina? The state completes a lot of ESCO projects so, overall, their facilities are more efficient.
In the end, implementing energy efficient technologies and practices, not only helps your prison run more efficiently, it reduces operating expenses so your cash can be used where it makes a bigger impact: paying for more COs, building upgrades, and additional programs to reduce the recidivism rate.