The media has jaded people in today’s society, and it seems that people no longer care or even attempt to think about others problems and how to fix them. Many people in this country either do not care or are happy to be ignorant of the issues affecting our world today. If someone cannot come up with a quick fix immediately then they simply ignore the problem until it becomes intolerable. This is true when it comes to thinking about those that we put behind bars. The prison system is only brought to the forefront when they become overpopulated and it’s time to create new prisons. Every couple of years this issue comes up and always the same solution is proposed. Building more prisons will only exacerbate the problem in the end, due to the ineffectiveness of prisons. While this is a way out of the problem, it does not get to the heart of the problem. As a society we have to begin to focus on the bigger picture. It is time that people realize that creating prisons is not a solution to this problem. A practical and more permanent solution to our failing prison system is to fund the creation of new educational programs for inmates through our tax dollars.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, “In 2005, over 7 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at yearend 2005 — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 32 adults.” Statistics show that if nothing is done, these shocking figures will continue to rapidly increase throughout the years. Even though the United States does not have the largest general population, it somehow managed to have the largest prison population worldwide (Vicini). As if that is not bad enough recidivism rates are extremely high, and “some experts believe that the number of people locked up in the U.S. could double in the next 10 years” (Levister). Society locks them up, throws the key away, and forgets about them. They continue to exhaust the nation’s resources throughout their entire lives, because they simply don’t know any better. As a nation we must realize that this problem has to be dealt with, and not in the usual fashion. While there is no quick and easy fix that would help this nation there is definitely something that can be done.
Although building new prisons seems to keep the problem at bay, it’s really just making things worse. In the short run building more prisons might appear to be a feasible and most cost effective solution, but in the long run it will end up costing more. As the number of inmates increase, the amount of time and other resources put into prisons will proportionally increase as well. Legislators are constantly struggling to fund healthcare and education, and yet they continue to pay for an expensive justice system that is destroying communities. “Billions of public safety dollars are absorbed by prison expansion and limits the nation’s ability to focus on more effective strategies to promote public safety” (Vicini).
Why should taxpayers continue to fund a system that has constantly proven to be completely ineffective? Instead of continuing to waste billions on our current prison system, we should make an immense investment that would create a new prison system; a system that educates inmates, helps keep them out of prison, and prepares them for their life after prison. By financing prison education today, not only will we be creating safer society, but there will be more resources to allocate in the future into more useful programs.
Many studies have shown that educating prisoners will drastically reduce recidivism rates. “People whose humanity has been restored through dedicated education in prison tend to prefer a crimeless life after release.” (Soffer) No matter what the case is, anybody with an education will always have a higher chance of getting a job. Jobs will keep ex-convicts preoccupied; this will promote safety in communities, and decrease crime rates. Boulard’s article stated that only one out of the ten inmates that participated in a prison educational program has returned to prison. If this ten percent recidivism figure holds true throughout the entire prison population, prisons will eventually have to start closing down. With prisons closing downs, the economy will begin to flourish. Resources would become available to fund many of the other sections of the economy that are currently in need of help as well.
Tax payers might find themselves asking, “Why should my tax dollars pay for somebody else’s education?” We must all realize, that we need to work together in order to promote general safety and the overall good of the nation. If this problem is continued to be ignored, ex-convicts will continue to commit crimes against others, and eventually return to prison. Ultimately, if access to education for prisoners is not provided, prisons will continue expand which will only hurt and drain the resources of our economy. Healthcare and education will continue to be under funded, and we will continue to live in unsafe neighborhoods, with high crime rates. There is no doubt about it, everyone benefits from prison education; our safety is worth every penny of it. Our society needs to stop ignoring people that cannot manage their own life in prison; these people should not be forgotten.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. August 8, 2007. Bureau of Justice. September 21, 2007. [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/correct.htm]Vicini, James. “U.S. Prison Population has Biggest Rise in Six Years”. June 27, 2007. Reuters.
September 21, 2007. [http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2637053120070627]Levister, Chris. “A Sweatshop Behind Bars”. September 13, 2006. Independent Media Institute. September 21, 2007. [http://www.alternet.org/story/41481/?page=1]Soffer, Shimon. “Prison Education: Is It Worth It?”. Corrections Today. October 2006. Vol. 68 Issue 6, p14-15.
Boulard, Garry. “California Prison-Education Programs Report Success”. Community College Week. 1/17/2005, Vol. 17 Issue 12, p11-11, 2/3p.