Most U.S. states spend more on prisons and jails than on education, and California is the worst for that in the incarceration-obsessed “land of the free”.
The Golden State invests $64,642 per prisoner compared to $11,495 per student, according to personal finance site GoBankingRates.
After California, New York is next for spending more on prisons. Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island round out the top five.
U.S. incarceration rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years, aided by Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. Biden helped lead the war on drugs during the 1980s and ’90s that continues to fill up prisons.
The U.S. obsession with locking people up is reflected in the numbers. The U.S. accounts for 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but 22 percent of the world’s prison population, Daily Mail Online reported.
Prisoners are a source of cheap labor for the U.S.
In 2005 – the most recent year for which a fairly complete set of countrywide data is available – the U.S. convict-labor system employed nearly 1.4 million inmates. About 600,000 worked in manufacturing — that’s 4.2 percent of total U.S. manufacturing employment, Michael Poyker wrote for Project Syndicate. Proyker is a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate Business School.
Kevin Rashid Johnson has refused to perform labor inside prison ever since he was convicted of murder in 1990 when he was 18. He has consistently challenged his conviction on grounds that he was misidentified.
“I see prison labor as slave labor that still exists in the United States,” Johnson wrote in a guest column in the Guardian. “In fact, slavery never ended in this country.”
Fifteen U.S. states spend at least $27,000 more per prisoner than they do per student, according to the GoBankingRates report. California spends $8.6 billion a year on its prison system, more than any other state, averaging $64,642 per inmate. It has the biggest gap between education and prison spending, paying $11,495 per student.
GOBankingRates calculated annual per-pupil spending and per-inmate spending for each state using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Vera Institute of Justice. After California, the top five states for inmate spending vs student spending are as follows:
• New York spends $69,355 per inmate and $22,366 per student.
• Connecticut spends $43,201 per inmate and $18,957 per student.
• New Jersey spends $61,603 per inmate and $18,402 per student.
• Rhode Island spends $58,564 per inmate and $15,531 per student.
African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent, according to the NAACP criminal justice fact sheet.
There are correlations between prison spending and education spending, experts say. As U.S. incarceration rates tripled in the past three decades, government spending on K-12 education increased by 107 percent.
About 66 percent of state prison inmates haven’t graduated high school. Young Black men age 20-to-24 without a high school diploma are more likely to be in jail or prison than to have a job, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
If every U.S. state was a country, 23 of them would have the highest incarceration rate in the world, according to the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative, which works to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization. Massachusetts, the U.S. state with the lowest incarceration rate, would rank ninth in the world.
“States like New York and Massachusetts appear progressive, but even these states lock people up at higher rates than nearly every other country on earth,” according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
Written by Dana Sanchez