Here’s a terrifying, Texas-size reality check: The Lone Star state spends three times more money for prisons than for schools. In fact, Texas’ spending on prisons is 668 percentage points higher than education spending, according to a recent study published by the U.S. Department of Education.
The research shows that Texas chalked up the highest percentage point difference in the nation between increases in expenditures for education and increases in expenditures for incarceration over a three-decade period, the Dallas Observer reported.
While State and local expenditures for pre-K through 12th grade increased by 182 percent between 1980 and 2013, Texas spending for keeping people locked went up by 850 percent in the same period. Ouch!
Texas runs the largest prison system in the nation, and this operates alongside a booming private prison system across the state.
It’s very horrible to lock everybody up instead of teaching them to read. And it’s not as if it works. The same Department of Education study cites research showing that a 10 percent increase in incarceration rates produces a drop in crime rates of only about two percent.
Meanwhile, the research revealed that a ten percent increase in high school graduation rates can produce a decrease in crime rates of as much as nine percent. So in the simplest terms, prisons are an extremely inefficient mechanism for reducing crime and making people safer than effective schools.
The Observer wrote:
“The other major phenomenon the study points to – maybe the most important thing in it – is a kind of pressure-cooker effect that has to do with who gets locked up. In terms of where the hammer falls and how hard, we’re talking about very specific communities and geographical areas concentrated in poor urban minority neighborhoods.
If we fail to find an effective key to that problem, if we cannot find a way to put that basic syndrome into remission, then those million dollar blocks can only continue to metastasize as social cancers.
The point of the Department of Education study – and they are, after all, the Department of Education – is that education is a far cheaper and more effective means of turning young people’s lives around than prison. The study found that two-thirds of state prison inmates are not high school graduates. Nationally, black males between the ages of 20 and 24 who lack a high school diploma have a higher chance of being incarcerated than of finding a job, the study found.
Nobody is saying that getting a hardened criminal to earn a high school certificate will turn him away from the life of crime to which he is already committed. Nobody is saying we should not lock up dangerous criminals.
But if we go up to about 6,000 feet and look down, the path we are on now is clearly not sustainable.”