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America’s Priorities: Why does the US spend twice as much on prisons as it does on education?

Updated: Jun 2


Why does US spend twice as much on Prisons as it does on Education?
America's Priorities

The United States spends on average more than twice the amount per inmate than it does per student to the tune of $80 billion a year spent on the imprisonment of nearly 2.3 million Americans. If reversed, this rate of spending would free up over half the cost for free college tuition. In 2016, a recent Presidential administration revealed that American families with an absent father are 40 percent more likely to experience poverty. This economic burden is compounded by the $2.9 billion these families spend on items like telephone calls and prison commissary purchases alone. Criminal Justice does not operate by party lines; nor does its impact on communities.


Student debt is currently at over $1.5 trillion and takes the average student roughly 20 years to pay off this debt. Two-thirds of student debt is owed by women. If you are in college or have gone to college in the last 20 years, you are probably in debt. For the two decades, we’ve been spending more than twice as much money to incarcerate people than to educate them. If America’s focus was on opportunity instead of incarceration, a generation of graduates wouldn’t be forced into mortgaging their futures. Education results in higher economic performance statistically speaking and studies have shown a correlation between higher education and decreased likelihood of criminal outcomes and poverty.

A lack of investment in communities that need it most leads to increases in illegal activity. Investment in early childhood development and schooling saw returns not only in test scores, but in physical health as well. At a time in our country when government spending on public education is down 30 percent, it comes as little surprise to experts when the pendulum swings in the other direction.

The United States makes up five percent of the world population but accounts for 25 percent of the global prison population. Of all those inmates, two-thirds never finished high school. Each year a student completes in school reduces the average risk of arrest by six percent. Kids who stay in school are less likely to abuse drugs and get arrested for possession. If it were a matter of simply citing facts and figures, perhaps this would’ve already been solved. The fact that this remains an issue in the face of overwhelming evidence forces us to ask why.


Criminal Justice is a diverse topic with a wide array of different subjects of reform. Within education alone there are hundreds of different objectives that can be identified. The National Consensus believes in the word focus. The National Consensus aims to leverage the power of a national consensus to a small set of clearly identified objectives. We aim to bring a tremendous amount of support and logistics to a very narrow set of objectives to achieve local logistical superiority on the objectives you identify. Those objectives are what we call The Docket. The docket is your collective opinion. We are building a system that enables you and your community to articulate your collective opinion so together we can create a national consensus. What is the National Consensus on Criminal Justice Reform? That is for you to decide and for we to find out.


Your voice, our action. If you are ready to find your voice and help the country create a criminal justice system worthy of us all, sign up here.



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