Monday, April 2, 2012

Fareed Zakaria on Prisons

CNN's Fareed Zakaria offers an short but sweet affirmation that America is locking up too many of the wrong kinds of people -- nonviolent drug offenders, namely -- for too long, at too high a cost.  Just take a look at these numbers comparing what we spend on prisons instead of education:

In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education. Since 1980, California has built one college campus; it's built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.
Cost-effective sentencing reforms are the answer -- starting with getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences and letting judges decide who should be in prison cells and for how long.