Friday, April 8, 2011

Good and Mad Reading for the Weekend

A new report from the NAACP should make educators, parents, students, and citizens as burning-hot mad as a Bunsen burner.  It's called Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate.  As the title suggests, it explains how our schools and kids get fewer and fewer dollars as prisons gobble up more and more of state and federal budgets.

The report offers profiles of six cities and three people who have been through the criminal justice system.  The report also provides interesting numbers showing the connections between under-performing schools and neighborhoods with high incarceration rates.  The NAACP offers a list of suggestions for moving money from prisons to schools:
It is critical that all states prioritize education over incarceration. The NAACP calls for the downsizing of prisons and the shifting of financial resources from secure corrections budgets to education budgets. This can be accomplished if states accept the following recommendations: ...
6. Reform sentencing and drug policies: Eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses that help fuel drug imprisonment.
7. Use diversion for drug-involved individuals: Reform prosecutorial guidelines to divert people to treatment who would otherwise serve a mandatory prison term.
8. Shorten prison terms: Send young offenders who would otherwise receive mandatory sentences to structured programs to help them earn their GED and shave time off their prison sentences.
With a federal government shutdown looming because of a budget battle, all eyes are on how we spend our tax revenues.  Every dollar we spend on prisons is one that can't go to education.  And if you believe (as many do and statistics seem to show) that education can help keep people out of prison, education is by far the better investment.

-- Stowe