In California, Spending On Prisoners Far Outweighs Spending on Students

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 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.

From The Orange County Register:

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


Aaron G
Aaron Gallo4 years ago

I have an easy solution to this problem! Reinstate the death penalty in California and EXECUTE ALL 1st degree murderers who were found GUILTY by a jury, ow and get rid of the STUPID death row apeals process which keeps death row inmates on death row for decades, what a joke! If we reinstated the death penalty in California, we would free up a huge chunk of the money we spend on housing, feeding and providing medical care for these PIECES OF SLIME!

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

not an easy fix, but this needs to be taken seriously. education should be the nation's priority because it's the foundation for a happy and successful life.

Mayra L.
Mayra G6 years ago

kenneth m., the only :"illegals" are people such as the ones you defend. the thieves known as republicans. those are the real "illegals." turn off your Faux News and stop believing Glenn Beck's insane conspiracies. good luck on your educational journey.

kenneth m.
kenneth m6 years ago

Stop wasting money on illegals. Plenty of money left think about it liberals

Pego R.
Pego R6 years ago

Hi Elizabeth

The document you are looking for is this;

The US has a quarter of the world's prison population and, actually, I do not believe that this takes into account the people in deportation detention, which are here;

What is most directly correlated to this article is this next thing about simple literacy;

I think on of the more interesting opinions on this is in the book "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto. He has expanged on that book in "The Underground History Of American Education" which is online to read free, here;

But I liked the smaller book better.

Michelle K.
Michelle K.6 years ago

I agree this is outrageous when I need to get a masters' degree to take a possible teaching position in a J.C, or at least earn the state's current requirements for teaching full-time in high schools, but can't because I've run out of funds.

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

Sad to learn prisoners are better cared for than schools.

Lori Ann H.
Lori Hone6 years ago

Priorities are all wrong here!

Avril Van Rooyen
Avril Van Rooyen6 years ago

Priorities all wrong. Crime pays!!

Prisoners should be made to work - they should be out there fixing roads, cleaning sidewalks, cutting verges, picking up litter. They should earn their keep and not be free-loaders.
Some criminals have better living conditions in jail than they do at home.

Sick society.

Empress Ginger
Ginger Strivelli6 years ago

they should feed prisoners (in all states) three cold brown bag meals a day (A PB and J sandwich a carrot and a lemonade) instead of 3 hot cooked meals. Take the saved money and help poor working class families get enough food.