We know lower education rates mean higher rates of incarceration:

In yesterday’s Panopticonic article — Romney Wants Fewer Teachers, Cops and Firefighters — I argued fewer teachers would lead to more crime.  Some readers commented in email there was no proof of that common sense notion, so today, I provide some hard and unavoidable facts here in Carceral Nation confirming fewer teachers create larger class sizes and larger class sizes create higher dropout rates:

Oregon’s annual dropout rate over the last decade has dipped and climbed with the number of teachers. When the number of teachers dropped to nearly 27,000 in 1998, the dropout rate hit 6.9 percent. When teacher ranks climbed to 31,000 in 2007, the dropout rate had fallen to 3.2 percent.

Now we also know that, in California, more inmates, and higher penal budgets, means less state support for students:

Since 1980, higher education spending has decreased by 13 percent in inflation adjusted dollars, whereas spending on California’s prisons and associated correctional programs has skyrocketed by 436 percent. The state now shells out more money from its general fund for the prison system than the higher education system. (When combined with K-12 education, the state’s overall education spending dwarfs its prison expenditures.)

Fifty-five percent of the growth of corrections spending is the result of the state simply putting more people in jail. Over the past three decades, the number of inmates in California facilities has increased eight times faster than size of the overall population.

How will California fight to lower the ever-increasing cost of what is quickly becoming irrelevant incarceration?  If the Golden State paroles more prisoners more often — will the residual costs associated with a higher percentage of inmates also decrease?

Or will California just continue to pay all the associated wages of incarcerating what has become an entire generational economic swath of the perjured and the underprivileged?  Must we always pay for a fully staffed prison if we are able to reduce the number of prisoners?

We need to find a national solution to a state-sponsored problem:  Is there anything else that can be done with drug users other than staving them away behind bars?

Of the inmates residing in federal prisons as of September 2011, and for whom offense data are known, more than half (101,929 or 50.4%) were serving sentences for federal drug offenses—including simple possession.49 And of the 24,366 federal drug offenders known to have been sentenced for drug related offenses, 6,336 were sentenced for marijuana-related offenses and 4,309 were sentenced for methamphetamine-related offenses in 2010.50

Do we want to continue to lock up drug users and keep paying for their new lives with our taxes, or do we prefer to spend that money on smartening up our students so they won’t tumble down the pathway of illegality and pain for profit?

Are we willing to spend more money to discover a predictive way to protect the good of us instead of just blindly paying for, and punishing, the worst of us?

4 Comments

    1. Thanks for that informative link, Lillian! One of my Nebraska junior high school teachers way back when — he was an older gentlemen on the verge of retirement — said that all drug use in the USA should be legal, but you’d have to move to an isolated island and live there with all the other drug users. That way, he thought, the rest of us would be protected and they could all drug themselves to pleasure and death as they wished.

      He also said they should have free drugs and syringes and such so they would never run out of what they gave up their real lives to pursue.

      I admit I really like his thinking now, and back then, when I was young, it was pretty wild to hear a sage adult teacher like that talk about that sort of solution because there was a lot of “Just Say No” sort of thinking back then: Ignore it and it will all go away.

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