Once the US emerges from its current financial circumstances, and strives once more for economic prosperity, the hope remains that its government can carry with them the lessons learned from their experiences. As negotiations continue to stall and fail reach a budget resolution for 2012, the law makers and politicians of the country must resolve to never let such a state of affairs develop again, and create an expenditure plan that is both considered and reflects the best interests of society.
Interestingly, there are certain factors of government who are looking to do this at present, by attempting to reduce the funding for prison and correctional facilities and reinvesting this capital into the nations education. As California governor Jerry Brown this week signed a bill to transfer thousands of non violent felons from state prisons to more relaxed county jails, so too a significant step was made to close certain correctional facilities and redirect government funding into educational programs and schools.
A Time for Change
The spending statistics are damning indeed. In the 2 decades between 1990 and 2010, the US prison population has soared by over 1 million individuals, and prompted even more funding to be invested in building and expanding correctional facilities to handle the increasing capacity. Within this period, state spending on prisons climbed by nearly 130 percent, which is an astonishing and troubling six times higher than the total rate of expenditure committed to education.
Subsequently, while the number of correctional facilities have climbed and existing institutions have been the beneficiary of an increased investment, certain states and cities of the US have seen school and educational facilities close due to a lack of funding. This situation was most prominent in Detroit, where a swathe of state schools have been rendered redundant in the current economic climate, which in conjunction with other factors have driven citizens outside of the city to seek an existence elsewhere.
The decision to release non violent prisoners from state correctional facilities and send them to county jails is a welcome one, and will significantly reduce the governments burden and the number of correctional facilities that are in operation. If this can be achieved, and alternative punishments or rehabilitation programs can be arranged for the perpetrators of crimes that do not threaten the safety of law abiding citizens, then a significant sum of capital can be recuperated and injected into state education programs and outlets.
The Links between Crime and Education
The idea of utilizing correctional facilities for the perpetrators of all crimes is ridiculous, especially given the extreme nature of maximum security outlets. While the only safe and reasonable consequence for violent or sexually orientated crime, it is entirely inappropriate for those who commit non violent theft and offences of a fraudulent nature, and their incarceration means that the cost of detaining them is out of proportion to their original indiscretion. Finding suitable outlets to allow these perpetrators to serve their social debt, such as community service or a stint in county jail, is the key to easing the burden of funding correctional facilities.
It is here that we should also draw a link between education and criminal behavior, as these entities form part of a cycle that has a significant impact on society. As we see a debilitating pattern of reduced educational spending and soaring investment in correctional facilities, it is clear that the diminishing quantity and quality of teaching has contributed heavily to an increase in criminal attitudes and conduct. Sure, it may be argued that an increased investment in prisons has been required due to the surge in criminality, but a neglected educational system is at the root of any issues concerning a general social ethos.
By tackling the issue from an opposite viewpoint however, local and national governments may be stumbling upon the key for a successful resolution to this problem. Through the process of assessing criminals and their punishment based on the nature of their crimes, it will be possible to minimize the prison population and close a number of existing facilities. This will allow the requisite boost to educational investment, and form a long term foundation for curing social conduct and nurturing youngsters into being responsible and law abiding citizens.
A Portent of Hope for the Future
It is encouraging that governors and political representatives are looking to assess the nature of their spending, and explore ways through which the budget may be spent wisely and in the best interests of society. There is no doubt that governments need to take a longer term approach to cultivating spending habits, and look to invest their wealth into programs that can have a positive impact on various aspects of existence over a significant period of time.
Of course, given the current economic circumstances of the US, its rulers are forced to consider only short term resolutions simply to move the nation in the direction of prosperity. This scenario will not remain however, and as the economy begins to recover and grow, so too a new and considered public spending ethos should emerge from the debris. It is each individual citizens and groups responsibility to learn and improve from previous experience, and lead themselves and their subjects into a more prosperous future.