States can save money prioritizing education over incarceration

The reality is that incarceration is expensive. There is no denying that fact.


By Michael Pittaro
Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at American Military University

As a criminal justice professor with a background in prison administration, I am regularly assigned to teach one or more courses in corrections. One issue that I consistently address in my lectures is the disparity in correctional expenditures in relation to educational expenditures. Pennsylvania is a prime example of a state in which more money is earmarked for corrections while funds for education are cut:

  • In the 2011-2012 state budget, Pennsylvania cut $1.1 billion from education spending.
  • In the 2013-2014 school year, facing a $304 million budget shortfall, the Philadelphia school district closed 23 schools and fired thousands of teachers, aides, and counselors in the remaining schools.
  • 75 percent of Pennsylvania schools will reduce instructional programming as a result of budget cuts.
  • Pennsylvania spends twice as much on prisons as it does on higher education. Many studies report that anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of prisoners did not complete high school.
     

In 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) requested more than $2 billion in funding for fiscal year 2014-2015, which was a $77 million increase from former Governor Tom Corbett’s 2013-2014 budget. The reality is that incarceration is expensive. There is no denying that fact. This is partially due to an increase in inmates who require mental health and other related services to assist them in reintegrating from prison back into the community. Nearly one-fourth of inmates need mental health treatment, which requires the expense of building programs and properly training staff.

Full story: States can save money prioritizing education over incarceration

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