Pay For Prisons or Pay For Schools: The Choice Is Up To You

Gymnasiums that once provided a necessary outlet for inmate aggression now house prisoners bunked three high.  Lines run 50 inmates deep for those seeking rehabilitative services while incarcerated.  Deteriorating facilities result in at least one inmate death per month. 

Pushed to the brink as a result of mandatory prison sentences and consistent cuts in funding, a federal three-judge panel tentatively ordered the State of California to cut its prison population by nearly 60,000 inmates over the course of the next three years to prevent inmates regularly dying from a lack of adequate care or from suicide.

Despite their status as prisoners, these men and women have Constitutionally guaranteed rights that include access to adequate health care and to live in conditions that meet minimum standards of health and safety.  It may be hard to drum up sympathy surrounding the horrific conditions at most American prisons, but it is a reality facing over 2 million Americans.  More than 1 in every 100 Americans currently serve time.  This accounts for 1 in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 living behind bars.  These statistics vary by race and ethnicity, by far hitting the black community hardest.  We currently incarcerate 1 in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 34. The United States locks up more citizens than any other country in the world, outpacing countries such as Iran.

Expert testimony presented to the three-judge panel recommended California divert non-violent offenders and parol violators away from prison and into county programs, offering that such diversion would have little to no impact on public safety.  The reduction in these populations alone could save the State of California between $803 million and $906 million annually.  California’s budget woes are well documented, but California is not alone in trying to manage corrections costs.  Between 1987 and 2007 the amounts states spent on corrections grew 127 percent, matched by just a 27 percent increase in higher education.  

The Pew Report offers a sobering account of our current corrections policy.  The bright spot, if any, may be the economic crisis facing this country.  Constitutional problems with prison overcrowding aside, our fiscal emergency mandates that we take a hard look at our sentencing and incarceration policy.

Do we want our tax dollars going towards jailing our citizens when research shows such efforts have very little effect on reducing crime rates?  Or, do we want our tax dollars going towards providing affordable education, poverty reduction, substance abuse programs, and criminal justice reforms such as drug courts that have a proven record of reducing incarceration and recidivism but are currently withering on the vine due to anemic state budgets?  The time to make these decisions and to demand action is now.  Let your state and federal representatives know how you want your tax dollars spent.  With any luck we can reverse this trend and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the Constitutional protections for all our citizens.


Brian E.
Brian E8 years ago

Outsource prisoners to India! Great idea! Unfortunately, the prison industry (construction, guard unions, etc) is heavily invested in building more prisons.

B Ruce F.
B Ruce F.9 years ago

Love to hear there are people who think like me. It costs an average of 25k
(low 20k high 40k) per prisoner. The average per capital income in india is around 1k. Out source prisoners i.e. $2
a day. Book them on those unfilled luxery let's have a "student
prisoner exchange"....

Shelly Bee
Shelly Bee9 years ago

Oh what could the solution be?? Let's see.

How about let the prisoners out into rehabilitation and job programs and half way houses, homeschool your children and with the money saved by closing a good number of the prisons and schools, give this money back to the people.

No, I am not a troll, just in case your wondering. It's just that my views are not that common. LOL

I welcome anyone to visit me on my page, since it may be a while before I check back here to see if anyone has left a comment in reply to mine, if that's how it's done here.



Craig Chmiel
Craig C9 years ago

Jessica most drop out of school, im not saying all but what good is a education if they don't have any intention on going in the first place. Back in the 60's it was pot but now it is more than that, much more dangerous stuff, and the legal thing is that we would create a more dependent society, which in turn would have other countries produce, even more for the demand. And i think that would damage the countries ie columbia and afganistan and the likes. I believe the jails are full and i don't know the % that are drug related not a expert on this, just my view.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C9 years ago

I say let's just open the gates and let them all run free a-muck our cities, while were at it give them each a gun on the way out. Listen a-lot that are behind bars shouldn't be there in the first place. But the reality is most don't care that they are in there in the first place. yes some made stupid mistakes and some need special places ie hospitals, but to say rights to be given, why not put them in respected housing like murders in one cell block, rape, drug, repeat dui's, ect in another. Would that not work Just a question out there. All walks of life are there for a reason, and some are there that should be free with dna now, cold cases could be solved and the questions on some of these people could be released.

Karen H.
Karen Hirst9 years ago

why not consider Sherriff Joe Arpaio - MARICOPA (ARIZONA) COUNTY JAILþ

googling him found a summary below:

He banned smoking, coffee, pornographic magazines, movies and unrestricted television in all jails. He has the cheapest meals in the country too. The average inmate meal costs under 20 cents. Arpaio also has launched innovative rehabilitation programs like "Hard Knocks High ", the only accredited high school in an American jail. His ALPHA program teaches inmates to turn away from drugs. It is one of his proudest accomplishments. A high percentage of ALPHA graduates leave his jail clean and sober and rarely, if ever, return to incarcaration.

Roxanne Greschner

Support the John Greschner Defense Committee. We need it. our Committee has form to free lifers who have done over 20-30 years in prison. Join me on my space. Roxanne Greschner

Dwight B.
Past Member 9 years ago

The complete THREE STRIKES AND YOUR OUT has somehow been deleted will try to find the time to complete

Michael Nolan
Michael Nolan9 years ago

Maybe we should think about reforming the laws that send so many people to prison in the first place.

Threee strikes? It's filled our prisons but hasn't cut down on crime.

Anti-pot laws? It's time to legalize it and tax it. Cut down on drug related violence at the same time. Respect the health needs of thousands (and at the same time respect California's right to allow medical marijuana.)

Spend money on rehabilitation rather than jail for drug abuse. It's cheaper and more effective, not to mention more humane.

Reverse the trend toward private prisons, which operate for profit. Give this responsibility back to the government, where the highest priority is in cutting crime and keeping people out of prison. Private prisons thrive on increased crime and ever-longer sentences.

Richelle R.
Richelle R9 years ago

I agree that we are paying too much $$ for prisoners. But why are there so many? And why do we spend so much on illegals and gang members? Maybe if we did something about the illegal immigrants and had a better education system, that would discourage gang membership, we would have a more positive outcome with our youth. In our town most of the gang members are illegals, have created children and are being supported by the state.