Wednesday, September 26, 2018

California Prisons Will Outspend Colleges


Inevitable prognosis...100%. Estimated time of collision...not more than five years. Basic fact:

California taxpayers will soon be coughing up more of their tax money on the state's prison system than on higher education.

According to an article written on Monday, May 21, 2007, by James Sterngold, of the San Francisco Chronicle, "California's prison budget will overtake spending on the state's universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on it's prisons compared with universities."

Does anyone think that our children should trade their future for prisons over universities. According to the results of a poll released in late 2006 by the , "When California voters were asked where the state should make cuts to balance the budget, they ranked Corrections as the department they were most willing to cut. Education was ranked most important to preserve spending."

Other polls have shown that taxpayers consistently have seen a greater value in financing higher education rather than a prison system that can only be considered a total failure in rehabilitating prisoners. Approximately 70% of released California inmates have been returned to prison within three years. Not only do we spend more on prisons than most, we have nothing but pitiful results to show for it.

California has cut vocational and educational programs in prisons, reduced it's support of halfway houses and is incarcerating the ill and the drug addicted. I don't have a clue as to what the statistics are today, in real time, but from 1984 until 1996 the State of California built TWENTY-ONE new prisons and ONE new University.

What's California's politicians answer to this problem?

On April 26, 2007, the prison construction bill passed both houses. There were NO public hearings on this bill. The bill calls for the construction of 40,000 new prison and jail cells and the shipment of 8000 prisoners out of state. The cost will be $7.4 billion in state-lease revenue bonds. This is over and above the current annual operating funds of over $10 billion. Sterngold went on to say, "Interest payments alone on the billions of bonds that will be sold to finance the new construction will amount to $330 million a year by 2011."

This isn't really "political". It isn't right wing, nor is it left wing. Nobody in their right mind wants to put prisons in front of education. This is about just admitting we were wrong, our prison policies are wrong, and "more of the same" isn't going to get the job done. It's like hitting your finger with a hammer and saying, "wow, that hurt, I wonder what it will feel like if I do it again?" Are Californians ready to accept throwing billions of dollars at an unsolved problem while trusting a corrections department that has nothing but a history of failure followed by failure? I am not sure the answer is at hand, but one can be sure that this isn't it.

Just a side note, reported on 2/28/06, that in 2005, one in ten prison guards were paid over a $100,000 a year, mostly due to overtime. One guard took down a whooping $187,000. The average guards base pay was $57,000 a year. That's not to shabby for a job that only requires a high school diploma and six weeks of training. On the other hand, a California teacher's average salary is about $56,000 a year and requires a degree, Make of it what you wish.

It is my hope that this missive has brought more questions to the table than answers.

James Sterngold: San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. Justice Policy Institute

Ventura County Star

About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on California Prisons Will Outspend Colleges

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By Jen on May 24, 2007 at 01:24 pm
Doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of a different result is the very definition of insanity. I dont have any answers either, but we might start by putting a little more money toward prevention and a little less toward punishment (re-hab my tushy!). At the very least we could give teachers the same kind of hazard pay we give to prison guards. Another excellent article. Thanks!
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