I’m Proud to be an American, Where at Least I Know I’m…….Free?

by alphamonkey on February 2, 2005 · 4 comments

in News

In a country where the right to be free is held to be the gold standard of our great democracy, is it right so many Americans are behind bars?  Today we actually imprison a larger percentage of our population than Russia did under Stalin.

It’s not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.  In fact, it’s becoming an even larger issue that is now taking funding from other areas of need.  The spending for education has become secondary to that of prisons.  Many states are now spending larger amounts on prisoners than on pupils, and those that aren’t yet are heading in that direction.  The folks over at MotherJones.com have researched this and provided information on each state’s spending trends.

So how bad is it?  Some states actually spend 1000 times as much on an incarcerated citizen as on a pupil in their schools.  Andrew Black and Virgina Weisz of the Washington Post write:

“While the state government in Virginia spends upward of $70,000 per year to incarcerate each child in a juvenile prison, it contributes only about $3,400 to provide for the education of that same child.” (read full article)

What does it say about a society that treats it’s citizens as prisoners, or a society that treats it’s prisoners better than it’s children?

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  • http://360.yahoo.com/razorfine_review Thundarr

    2 ways of thought: 1. Spend money on education and teach kids not to be criminals. 2. Spend little on education and just put all the criminals in jail.  I’ll take choice 1, and even if you choose the other, I don’t see the rationale in taking needed money from education budgets to put into prisons…..oh, and did anyone actually check out the link?, I thought it made its case pretty well.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/shadwstalkr Shadow Stalker

    Keep in mind that 24hr. room and board in a secure facility monitered by guards costs a lot more than paying a teacher to watch thirty kids for eight hours.  A discrepency between the per capita spending on prisoners and students is to be expected.

    Public education doesn’t need more money.  They need better teachers.  All the money in the world isn’t going to solve the administrative problems that suck the spirit from teachers within their first two years.  There are funding problems.  I won’t deny that.  But the big problem with public education is bureaucracy.  Bigger budgets will only make that worse.

  • http://360.yahoo.com/razorfine_review Thundarr

    I just love it when people make my points for me, thanks SS.  Yes, it does take much more money to feed, house and watch prisoners.  So why don’t we spend more effort in trying to stop people from becoming prisoners rather than just housing them? (or address the drug laws that are filling our prisons to capacity) It’s much cheaper to spend the money when they are young, than try to house them for decades after they have committed vicious crimes.

    And the “We need better teachers” is a cop out, pure and simple.  Public school teachers are paid less than any 4 year college graduate that is licensed to practice in that state, and treated like crap by politicians and citizens who decide to blame the problems of the whole society on public education and not equally on the parents themselves. 

    But that’s not an issue here.  Yes the whole system needs to be overhauled to get the money where it is needed, but attacking teachers isn’t going to do anything to help with that.  The state legislature decides where the money goes, not the teachers.  And while I believe that throughing money at the problem isn’t a good solution on its own, the issue here is that money is being taken away from these education programs which are already strapped for cash, while prison budgets are soaring through the roof. 

    Neither I nor the site made any remark resembling “Give Public Education More Money” (though I do think it desperately needs it, in the right areas).  What were discussing here is taking money from our children, the future of our country to spend it our rapists, drug dealers, organized crime, prostitutes and others who society has already given up on.  Now I ask you, is that a sound business solution?

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/shadwstalkr Shadow Stalker

    I don’t know that it’s a business matter.  I don’t buy the idea that less funding for education creates more criminals.  People fall through the cracks because of lack of parental involvement, bad luck, improper allocation of funds, red tape…lots of reasons.  I wasn’t attacking teachers; my sister and her husband are teachers, and my sister quit last year because she couldn’t stand all the red tape she had to go through to do something like get a disruptive student disciplined so she could teach the rest of her class.  What you don’t want is people being teachers for the money.  I know it sounds cold, but you want teachers who do it because they love it, because it’s their best skill.  Maybe bigger raises or bonuses would be good, but you don’t want people teaching for the money.

    A lot of blame for bad students does reside with the parents, but that doesn’t mean the teachers are unappreciated heroes.  There are a lot of bad teachers, and a lot more good teachers who just don’t care anymore.

    I think we should take more money away from schools to revamp/reopen mental health hospitals.  It’s an enormous problem that we don’t take care of our mentally ill.  We need to deal with the recidivist rate.  The schools are broken.  Until the fundamental problems are fixed, it doesn’t matter how they’re funded.  I really don’t see a problem with spending money on prisons.

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