Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Invest in hope

I want to recommend that you click through and read a short article by Jesse Jackson entitled "Invest In Hope, America, Not Despair". Here's something he says about Alabama:

Per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary education in the state is about 60 percent of what it costs to cage a prisoner annually. Tuition at a public university is about one-third the cost of a year in prison, for an in-state student. Alabama is paying millions to house inmates in other states.

Discrimination pervades this system. African-American males are more likely to be stopped and searched, more likely to be arrested if stopped, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be incarcerated if convicted. Of the total of 40 district attorneys, African Americans account for zero, nada, zip.

Now the system is collapsing on itself. There is no space in the prisons. The prison budget is now squeezing the education budget. Conservative judges and politicians are struggling to find ways to release nonviolent offenders early from long sentences to open up spaces for newcomers. And another generation is being tracked into the same mess.
Alabama — and this country — could invest in hope on the front side instead. Prenatal care, parental education, infant nutrition, health care, day care and preschool, good teachers for the toughest neighborhoods, smaller classes in the early grades, after-school programs — these would give many a fair start and a chance to succeed. It would cost less and generate more productive citizens.

I agree. Investing in hope would cost less than housing people in prison. But as Rev. Jackson points out, the prison-industrial complex lobbies to to keep building more prisons - and to keep them populated.

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