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From Classrooms to Cell Blocks: How Prison Building Affects Higher Education and African American Enrollment in California, October 1996

NCJ Number
Kathleen Connolly; Lea McDermid; Vincent Schiraldi; Dan Macallair
Date Published
October 1996
14 pages
This follow-up to a previous similar study conducted by the California Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice provides a broader and more thorough examination of the tradeoff between State funding for prisons and universities, as well as the impact that tradeoff has on African-Americans.
The study focused on what has happened to California's use of prisons and public higher education for African-Americans since 1980, with attention to whether prisons have become more accessible to Blacks while universities have become less accessible. Also examined was the change that has occurred in funding for the two systems during this time. The study also addressed how the public views the tradeoff between corrections and education, as well as what the future holds. The study found that prisons have become more accessible than public universities for African-Americans since 1980; California has made policy and fiscal decisions that increasingly favored locking people up rather than providing them with higher education. In California, 1,996 of every 100,000 African-Americans are in prison, compared to 242 of every 100,000 whites. African-Americans are imprisoned eight times as often as whites, and they are recipients of public higher education at about the same rate. Most of the increase in grant aid in public four-year colleges and universities has been financed not by the State or Federal Government, but by students themselves through student fee dollars "recycled" for financial aid. Given that African-American households are required to pay a greater percentage of their income to afford the cost of college, they require more financial aid. Since most aid is available in the form of loans, this means that a greater percentage of African-Americans would need to borrow more money than their white counterparts. Thus, as the cost of attending college increases, it is becoming disproportionately unrealistic for African-Americans to afford a college education. Surveys show that public sentiment favors State funding for schools more than funding for prisons. This paper recommends 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 capital improvements in higher education, and a continuation of the promotion of minority enrollment in California's universities. 42 notes