The Cost of Denial
What Happens Now?
From a 1995 publication by The Youth Task Force
(League of California Cities)
Many of these young people journey through the incarceration systems, including youth authorities, county, state and federal prison systems. Year after year, we spend more and more money on prison systems, law enforcement and the construction of new facilities with no reduction in crime.
Two of the dominant sentiments in America today are the desire to get tough on criminals and the desire to reduce government spending. Yet these two impulses are at odds across the nation, as the United States finds itself in the middle of an unparalleled prison building boom.
Federal and state governments have been beefing up; police forces, imposing tougher sentences and restricting parole in response to the public anger over crime. The result has meant an increase in the number of inmates, topping one million in the summer of 1994, in a penal system bursting at the seams.
About half of the increase in the cost of incarcertion is being financed by states shifting resources from higher education into prisons. Between 1980 and 1992, the increased share of the state taxes allocated to corrections meant that $9.5 billion was shifted from other state activities into corrections. Public higher education's share of this transfer was about $4.6 billion.
Ironically, no one can say for sure that this tactic will in the long run lead to a decrease in crime or create a society free of fear.
In fact, recent research would suggest that reducing our support for education in favor of prisons will have precisely the opposite effect. In 1993 , incarceration rates for high school drop-outs were 15 times greater than for those who had at least some college education.
From "The Cost of Denial," a publication of the Youth Task Force of the League of California Cities, 1995. Available in hardcopy by ordering online from the CityLink 2000 website.
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