One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000.
Prison and college “are the two most divergent paths one can take in life,” Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion’s share of government funding goes toward incarceration.
What would happen if we found a better way to treat our prisoners? What if we found a way to send them to mandatory school programs in prison instead of just dumping them behind bars to bide their day in a cell?
Every prisoner would start in solitary and then, as they learned and passed exams and wrote papers, they would gain more privileges that would be reward-based on expanding the mind instead of just mindlessly “behaving.” Refusal to learn means they stay in the dark like animals. If they want to be civilized, they will have to play along with the learning of their mind. In the end, education will always win.
Prisoners would get better cells and more recreation the better they did in school. When they graduated from high school or earned a college degree, they would win a stipend that they could bank and use for purchasing other educational enhancements.
The lifers would be immediately placed on a dual JD and PhD track — so they could spend a lifetime learning about the law and writing about their research. Prisons would become science parks instead of extended basketball courts.
I realize some will argue that the criminal mind is not keen enough to do well in school — but I would counter with the notion that the criminal mind is actually a certain status of genius that we have generally left untapped and undiscovered for rightness — the rehabilitation of the criminal mind for good instead of evil might just be the best sort of social safety net and educational reform our prison protection money can purchase us.