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From Classroom to Cell Blocks: How Prison Building Affects Higher Education and African American Enrollment in California

NCJ Number
Kathleen Connolly; Lea McDermid; Vincent Schiraldi; Dan Macallair
Date Published
October 1996
14 pages
This study examined what has happened to California's use of prisons and public higher education for African-Americans since 1980; whether prisons have become more readily accessible to Blacks while universities have become less accessible; changes in funding that have occurred for the two systems over the study period; the public's view of the tradeoff between corrections and education; and the future under current assumptions.
This study was conducted as a follow-up to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice's analysis of the tradeoff between corrections and higher education inherent in California's "zero sum" budget. The current study found that prisons are more accessible for African-Americans than public universities since 1980. California has made policy and fiscal decisions that increasingly favor locking people up rather than providing them with higher education. Decisions have consistently favored the prison system at a comparable loss to the quality of higher education in the following areas of public concern: the State budget, number of jobs, affordability of higher education, construction of new institutions, population increases, and salaries for professionals. Five times as many African-American men are in prison in California as are enrolled in public higher education. Public universities in California are becoming less affordable, especially for African-Americans. The reduced earning power of African-American households makes entrance into higher education an even more difficult hurdle. An analysis of the changes in the California General Fund appropriations since 1980-81 showed increasingly higher proportions earmarked for corrections at the expense of other major program expenditures, particularly higher education. A survey of a sample of California voters found that they gave higher priority to State funding for education than for corrections. This report recommended a freeze on prison construction funding, comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system to include a high-ranking sentencing commission, the enactment of a community corrections act, a bond issue for a new University of California campus, and the continuation of the promotion of minority enrollment in California's universities. 42 notes