1. John C. Randolph says

    First question that springs to mind is: how much of that money is due to the drug war?


  2. inkadu says

    Second question: How much money could be saved long-term by improving primary education?

    Third question: How much more does it cost the state to put someone in prison than through college?

    Fourth question: How many more times do people ask, “How are we going to pay for all this education?” than they ask, “How are we going to pay for all these prisons?”

  3. AlanWCan says

    However, for those involved in running the prison-industrial complex (and getting rich doing so) the questions would all go the other way. This is terrible, we’re still missing out on 33% of the possible available cash because people are getting educated. How much more can we make by torpedoing primary education a bit more than we already have? How much is the state devoting to putting kids through college, which is lost revenue for us? Quick, someone throw some more ethic minorities in jail. What else can we have declared illegal? War on Waffles. War on Sandals….

  4. says

    Here’s another one. Arecibo radio observatory is probably going to close. It needs $4 million more in budget to keep going for the next three years.

    * Is the only radio telescope large and sensitive enough to track asteroids (including possible Earth-grazers)
    * Discovered the first extra-solar planetary system
    * Discovered the first binary pulsar
    * Discovered the first neutron star
    * Discovered the correct rotation of Mercury
    * Mapped the surface of Venus using radar imaging
    * Hosts the SETI@Home receiver (which piggybacks on the main receiver so uses no telescope time)
    * Is the only American observatory to have garnered a Nobel Prize in Physics

    The war in Iraq costs $500,000 per minute. 8 minutes of Iraq war would fund Arecibo for 3 years.
    In 2006, interest payments alone on the U.S. national debt was $406 billion. That’s enough for 100,000 Arecibos. The current U.S. national debt is $9.1 trillion.

    Yet, no one in Washington seems to be able to find a paltry $4 million for Arecibo.

  5. says

    We really should try to look on the bright side, you know! These days when I drive down the length of our great state along Interstate 5 or Highway 99, I pass a number of cities which were once in contention for a future University of California campus. Merced won and the others were reduced to also-rans, but thanks to the glorious expansion of California’s prison program, these same cities can hope for major new prison facilities! And now we’re not talking about just one facility in one town, like UC Merced. No, there could be several new prisons needed to accommodate our incarceration growth industry.

    Yeah, it makes you proud to be a Californian.

  6. natural cynic says

    And that’s with an overcrowded prison system, where non-violent prisoners are being warehoused in gymnasiums in bunks three high in prisons that have almost double the number of inmates that they were designed for.

  7. craig says

    People LIKE paying for prisons.

    In this country, we’d rather spend $5 million to incarcerate you than $5000 to help you.

  8. says

    California also enacted one of the first and harshest of the so-called “habitual offender” laws (perhaps better called “throw away the key after the third conviction”), albeit I believe it has been slightly modified since enactment to (supposedly) allow an alternative of drugs treatment in some (supposedly) appropriate cases. However, I’ve no idea to what extent this law has effected the prison or university populations, or what effect it has had on the rates of crime in general or on the rate of particular crimes.

    A similar observation to Alan’s (#3) on the perpetual prison-industrial complex was made in 2002 (from Three Strikes and You’re Out. Human Rights, US-Style — As Americans shrug off criticism of Camp X-Ray, thousands of their countrymen suffer cruel but all-too-usual punishment):

    There is also a powerful prison-industrial complex which has a very clear financial incentive in maintaining the three strikes law. California spends $5.7bn a year on its prisons and there would be fierce lobbying against any reduction in the budget. The prison officers’ union is a powerful political player and fights any reform that might put members out of work. It has donated $2m to [then-]Governor Davis’s [election] campaign.

    Another site–I do not know how reliable this second site is?–claims:

    [Governor Davis’] corrections budget included $160 million for a new department headquarters and $220 million for a new death row unit at San Quentin prison.
    Davis’s 2003-04 budget also maintained funds for a new maximum security prison in Delano, now set to open in 2005. Cuts in the prison budget were almost all in the area of prisoner welfare and rehabilitation, including a reduction in funding for literacy and vocational programs and the elimination of 500 substance abuse treatment beds.
    The same budget included a large pay increase for prison guards, while other state employees, such as college teachers and health care workers, took layoffs and pay freezes. Under the terms of the new compensation agreement, by 2006 the average pay of a prison guard will be three times that of a starting public school teacher.

    The growth of California’s prison population has been astounding, even by US standards. In 1976 California had just 19,600 inmates and it spent six times more on higher education than prisons.
    Since 1980 California has built 23 prisons and only one new university. California currently incarcerates more than 160,000 people. Its prison system is the third largest in the world behind China and the United States as a whole. More people are held in jail in California than in France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Singapore combined. More young black and Latino men are in prison than are attending college.

    That site goes on to claim California is essentially running a forced prison labour scheme, where the slaves (there’s no other appropriate word) have no sick leave or other benefits.

  9. Graculus says

    But keeping all the evil-doers behind bars ensures that the US has the lowest crime rate of the Western world.

  10. SEF says

    In the UK, the BBC is paying “celebrities” 5 times as much (25K, though previously more for some of them) to vaguely learn to dance (and not then necessarily be able or willing to pass on anything they do learn) as the government is going to pay (5K) to non-science teachers (ie ones who probably weren’t fit to do science anyway) for them to learn how to pretend to teach science to children. That will let any creationist types who could never have obtained science qualifications honestly take jobs which let them corrupt further generations better than ever before.

    What the government should have done was to pay the tuition fees for all science (and similarly good things such as maths) degrees while making only those taking media studies (and other similarly worthless subjects) pay for being a waste of space-time. That way they would have got real science teachers (and workers) instead of fake ones. They don’t want to do that of course because the main issues for them are having the pretence of education and equality while saving money and keeping the unemployment figures artificially low.

  11. says

    It doesn’t really say anything about America’s priorities. I spend a lot more keeping my 13 year old Honda running than I do on science books; ‘apples & oranges’, as they say.

    It would be a lot cheaper to just shoot anyone convicted of a felony, but most people outside Texas don’t want to go that route.

  12. says

    Well, let’s be fair. California has more than one set of state colleges. In addition to the UC, we also have the CSU (California State Universities) that focus more on undergraduate education (these include the California Polytechnics). And there’re the community colleges, too.

    I expect that if you looked at the budget for all of them, it would still be less than the prison budget, but choosing only one of three systems of post-secondary education in the state to compare to the prison budget skews the picture dishonestly.

  13. David Marjanović says

    It would be a lot cheaper to just shoot anyone convicted of a felony

    That sounds logical, but I’ve read it isn’t the case. I don’t remember the source, unfortunately.

  14. David Marjanović says

    It would be a lot cheaper to just shoot anyone convicted of a felony

    That sounds logical, but I’ve read it isn’t the case. I don’t remember the source, unfortunately.

  15. CalGeorge says

    I hope they are paying the prison wardens the same obscene salaries they pay the UC Chancellors.

    It’s only fair.

  16. bernarda says

    Look at the bright side. At least all those prisoners have socialist health care, like the prisoners in Gitmo.

  17. David Harmon says

    Don’t forget that by throwing all those “darkies and druggies” in jail, we’re also keeping them from voting! I’m sure ShrubCo and friends (Ahnold) consider that a major benefit….

  18. says

    That’s just how it goes. Society is very myopic. We don’t have a long-term view of things. Even when spending more money now would save even more money later, we don’t do it. Examples: better preventative medicine, better education, better criminal rehabilitation, etc.

  19. Christian Carlsson says

    How come the US has 10-25 times more prisoners (per capita) than the Nordic countries (and four times that of any democracy), but at the same time more murders and other incidences of violent crime? Is the average American aware of this? Does she care?

  20. ckerst says

    Currently in America close to 1 of every 100 adults is currently in prison. What does that say about American culture?