It costs more than $50,000 a year to keep an inmate in state prison in California, according to The Orange County Register.
At the same time, ABC affiliate news10.net reports that California spent $7,440 per K-12 student last school year, according to Proposition 98 state funding.
One Prison Inmate For Seven Students?
In other words, California is spending almost seven times as much on each prison inmate as it spends on each K-12 student.
Another way of looking at it?
California Spends Twice As Much On Prisons As It Does On Universities
The Orange County Register reveals that the state now spends more than $10 billion a year on prisons, about twice what it spends from the general fund for the University of California and the California State University systems combined.
That’s a remarkable turnaround in a fairly short time. Just 15 years ago, in the mid-1990s, California was spending more than twice as much on its universities as its prisons.
Why the change? Prison costs have risen steadily due to longer sentences, more inmates sent to prison, higher salaries for correctional officers and more money spent on health care, while in the universities the state has turned to students and their families to shoulder more and more of the cost of their education. (My italics)
The state prison census for last week showed 147,569 felons in California state prisons and work camps.
Help From The U.S. Supreme Court
That’s a huge number, and even the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. In an interesting move, two weeks ago the Court said in a 5-4 decision that the prison population of California must not exceed 110,000 inmates, which is still far above the system’s designed capacity. This reduction is “required by the Constitution” to correct longstanding violations of inmates’ rights, and the state has two years to comply.
How this problem will be fixed is still under discussion, but it seems likely that some money will be saved.
Take The Dollars Saved And Give Them To The Education Budget
So if California could take some of the money it saves by reducing the number of prison inmates and give it to the education budget, which is facing horrendous budget cuts, perhaps some of those who would otherwise drop out of school and become criminals might actually stay in school. So everybody wins!
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Ken_Mayer via Creative Commons