The state of California spends 35 percent of its budget, or nearly $50 billion, on its 900,000 students in K-12 education.
Even after all the budget cuts made this past year or two, California spends 11 percent of its budget, or $8.6 billion, on state prisons in order to house approximately 166,000 prisoners. That’s $52,363 per prisoner per year.
And we spend 5 percent of our state budget on higher education —not even half our prison bill.
Sacramento’s CBS affiliate, KBET, has a tidy little report in which it looks at the newest versions of all these depressing numbers.
In the course of the report, the KBET folks played my favorite teeth gnashing game, which is to compare the yearly price tag of keeping someone in an overcrowded lock-up, with the cost of sending a student to a top university, including tuition room and board.
Here’s what they found:
Compare the cost of housing a prison inmate in California–$52,363 —to room, board, and tuition for one year at a college or university. Some examples:
University of Pacific: $42,346
Sacramento State University: $14,916
University of Davis, California: $25,580
Of course, at the end of a nice four years at, say, the California Institute for Men at Chino, an inmate will have $200 “gate money,” and little or nothing in the way of new job or academic or skills, and his or her psychological health is likely to be worse, not better.
While at the end of four years at Stanford University, a student will have……well, a degree from Stanford—-plus, one hopes and assumes, a list of new skills and capabilities.
So why do prisons cost so much? It ain’t the amenities, folks. Guys in prison aren’t given adequate soap much less anything truly useful.
KBET reports that 35 percent of the per-year cost goes to staff, and 50 percent goes to “operations.”
(Interestingly, California inmates who were shipped out-of-state to facilities in places like Mississippi in order to relieve overcrowding here, said they liked the out-of-state facilities much better—even though those states spend less per inmate per year. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about those seemingly discrepant facts.)
Sadly, in a brand new display of penny-wise-and-pound-foolishness, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has just proposed cutting another $250 million out of neither staff nor operations costs but, instead out of the rehabilitation and educational programs budget. So whatever programs were in existence that might have helped a man or woman stay out of prison upon release, are about to be vaporized.
But, hey, that’s much easier than delving into the CCPOA’s overtime figures. (Regular readers will know by now that the CCPOA refers to the correctional officers’ union.)
Anyway, I thought you’d all want to be kept up to date on these cheery stats.
Aren’t you glad we had this little chat?