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From Classrooms to Cell Blocks: A National Perspective

NCJ Number
T Ambrosio; V Schiraldi
Date Published
28 pages
This paper documents the national trend toward inordinate expenditures for prison construction and operations at the expense of education services for our youth, notably higher education.
Over the past two decades, America has waged a war on drugs, increased police annual spending fivefold, and imprisoned more people per capita than any other industrialized nation in the world. The "tough on crime" polices of mandatory minimums, "three-strikes" laws, truth-in-sentencing initiatives, and parole abolition have produced a dramatic increase in prison populations and in State corrections spending. There is no evidence, however, that these huge outlays for prisons and their operation have been matched by sizeable reductions in crime; over the last two decades, crime rates in most categories have remained relatively stable. As America continues to incarcerate more people per capita than any other western nation, social service and human development needs are being sacrificed in the battle for funding. Without significantly increasing higher education funding, it is impossible for States to improve the availability and quality of university systems. Over the last decade, class availability has dropped so dramatically that in many State universities, it takes an average of 5 1/2 years to get a 4-year degree. California and Florida are prime examples of this trade-off between incarceration and education services. There should be a moratorium on new prison construction, with a halving of the nonviolent prisoner population over the next 5 years; reallocation of prison construction funding from the 1994 Crime Act as seed funding for community corrections; initiation of widespread enactment of Community Corrections Acts; a required fiscal impact statement before implementing major crime policies; and investment in the future of children, families, and communities. 65 notes


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