According to a recent Pew Center study, Vermont "tops the list" of states spending more on corrections than on higher education. In 2007, we spent $1.37 for every $1 spent on public universities and community colleges. The cost of housing one female inmate at the Dale correctional facility in Waterbury was a whopping $67,000 per year, an amount that would pay in-state tuition for 6 students. What is wrong with this picture?
Years ago, I attended a conference on learning disabilities and the correctional system and was told that about 75% of the people in our prisons are learning disabled or have mental health problems. A group of graduates from the Woodside Correctional facility talked about their experiences before, during and after Woodside. These kids had turned their lives around and some of them wanted to go to college, but had no money to do so. Why is it that we always have enough money to fund corrections but our schools go begging?
I can’t remember the name of the wealthy businessman who told an inner city Kindergarten class years ago that he would pay for their college costs if they graduated with a B average or something like that. He also provided tutoring for the kids that wanted it. As I recall, a huge percentage of these kids ended up attending college and I have to bet that at least some of them might have ended up in the correctional system instead, had they not been given this opportunity. College is a bargain compared to prison, not to mention the human costs of crime for the victims, the inmates, children growing up without parents, etc. We need to straighten out our priorities.