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From Classrooms to Cell Blocks: How Prison Building Affects Higher Education and African American Enrollment

NCJ Number
K Connolly; L McDermid; V Schiraldi; D Macallair
Date Published
15 pages
This paper documents the thesis that excessive spending on prison construction and operations in California has made inroads into the financial resources available for higher education, a trend that has particularly hurt African American college enrollment.
The author shows that prisons are more accessible for African Americans than public universities, as the provision of prison bed space has taken priority over the provision of affordable college classrooms. Public universities in California are becoming less affordable, especially for African Americans. Given this trend in California's budget priorities since 1980, it could be assumed that this is the will of the voters, but recent surveys of public opinion indicate that the majority of citizens want improvements in education more than they want more prisons based in a policy of high incarceration rates. 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 a new University of California campus; and a continuation of the promotion of minority enrollment in California's universities. 8 figures and 43 notes