According to a new Department of Education report, released earlier this month, local and state jail and prison spending has increased over three times quicker since 1990 than school spending. Some states have spent more on building prisons and maintaining prisons than others. But, the amount of states turning a blind eye to the long-term effects of investing in education versus more prisons and jails is very alarming.
Why are We Spending More Money on Prisons Than Schools?
Also, since 1990, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the US jails and prison populations. Many experts give much of the credit for this to the “war on drugs” and policies which dictate mandatory sentences, which were designed to keep people incarcerated for very long time frames. As of today, the United States only makes up about 5% of the population in the world. However, about 25% of all the people incarcerated in the world are imprisoned here in the US, according to a Washington Post news report.
Here are just some of the prison spending and school spending facts found within the Department of Education report:
- States within the US spend about $71 billion each year on prisons
- Those same states spend about $534 billion each year on schools
- Local and state combined prison spending budget is more than 1/8 the size of the school spending budget
- Prison spending within the US has increased three times as much as national school spending
In a press release, which accompanied the Education Department’s report, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. noted:
“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited.
We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”
18 States Have Higher Prison Spending Budgets Than School Spending Budgets
Currently, 18 different states spend more taxpayers’ dollars on prisons and jails than is spend on colleges and universities. Here are some astounding facts about four of those states since 1990, per the Department of Education report:
- Colorado prison spending increased five times quicker than its school spending
- South Dakota’s spending on prisons grew six time quicker than what it spent on schools
- Wyoming’s amount spent on prisons grew seven times faster than school spending
- Texas spent so much on jails and prisons that its prison spending grew eight times it school spending rate
The Education Department report goes on to explain just how counterproductive it is to continue the practice of investing more local and state funds into prisons and jails that colleges and universities truly is:
“Reducing incarceration rates and redirecting some of the funds currently spent on corrections in order to make investments in education that we know work — including significantly increasing teacher salaries for great teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff schools, increasing access to high-quality preschool, providing greater educational opportunity for students seeking a higher education, and for those individuals who are incarcerated, providing access to high-quality correctional education — could provide a more positive and potentially more effective approach to both reducing crime and increasing opportunity among at-risk youth, particularly if in the pre-K-12 context the redirected funds are focused on high-poverty schools.”
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