As prison costs rise…

Fareed Zakaria wrote an interesting piece in Time Magazine earlier this week examining America’s prison culture. A snippet:

The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and ­Britain—with a rate among the ­highest—has 153. Even developing countries that are well known for their crime problems have a third of U.S. numbers. Mexico has 208 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, and Brazil has 242. As Robertson pointed out on his TV show, The 700 Club, “We here in America make up 5% of the world’s population but we make up 25% of the [world’s] jailed prisoners.”

The statistics are startling. Even more shocking is when Zakaria contrasts prison funding to education funding. Check out this infograph (compliments of Upworthy.)

Here in Oregon, mandatory minimum laws (often pushed by initiative profiteer Kevin Mannix) have forced our state prison budget to balloon. Just this morning, The Oregonian published a story detailing how Oregon’s prison population is set to surge once again:

Oregon prisons still have to brace for an influx of up to 2,000 inmates in coming years, according to the state’s latest prison population forecast released Friday.

The forecast said much of the increased population will come in the next four years. The state currently has 14,000 inmates, and state Corrections Department officials have estimated they will need to open mothballed prisons and build new ones to house future prisoners.

Because schools, prisons, and other public needs are all funded from the same general fund, this means that as prison costs go up, funds available for schools go down.

In the meantime, research shows that the most cost effective and efficient way to reduce crime is to invest in education.

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