Prison or Education?
12 March 2014
America is ranked number one in the world in the amount of people they incarcerate. On average for every 100,000 U.S citizens there are 500 citizens incarcerated (Tsai). A high percentage of the inmates are illiterate and about seventy percent of them dropped out of high school (Tsai). The government continues to increase funding for prisons as their population grows and at the same time the funds for education decline. As one might see there is an underlying correlation between education and crime. If the government would put less money into the prison system and more money in the public school system; crime and high school dropout rates would decrease.
In Los Angeles, California resides the country’s highest prison population averaging out to more than 20,000 inmates. To compensate for the high incarceration the funds for their prisons increased a billion dollars more than education in 2010. In that same year Los Angeles Unified School District estimates about 640 million dollar loss from their previous year’s budget (Hawkins). This is only spreading the burdens of the economy onto students making it harder for them to succeed. Cities in L.A. where schools have the lowest performing students exist in the highest incarceration rated neighborhoods. The schools with the highest performing schools have the lowest incarceration rates (Hawkins). Dr. Tracy Lachica Buenavista reveals that, “Research has found that access to education is a deterrent to incarceration and if they have an access to education, they are less likely to be incarcerated” (Hansook). When budget cuts are made schools have to eliminate programs, resources, and teachers to compensate. They have to raise their class sizes which makes it harder for teachers to focus individually on students, further allowing more to slip through the cracks.
Houston, Texas contains some of the nation’s highest dropout rates. Sharpstown High School in particular is known as the dropout factory. In 2012 of the 455 students that came in there freshmen year only 217 students managed to graduate on time. The majority of the students that attend come from low income families making it harder for them to stay in school. Also a good portion of the kids at some point or another find themselves getting in trouble with the law which forces them to leave school as well. Serious changes needed to be made to the district so they created a program called Apollo 20. This program was designed to better meet the needs of students who were at risk of dropping out and to the consistently low test scores. They first replaced all the principals, assistant principals and they also made teachers reapply for their jobs. The school increase their time on task by adding an hour to their school day and adding two weeks to the school year. Adding staff on strictly for at risk students to council them and meet their critical needs that they otherwise wouldn’t of had time for in previous years. They have a campus improvement coordinator that organizes and keeps track of the data of all the students so they are constantly aware of their academic status so no student falls behind. A high dosage of tutoring was put in place for every student as well. The money for this program unfortunately had to be raised by foundations and companies from the surrounding community since the government did not provide the funding in their budget (Koughan). The dedication of the staff and the changes that were made all proved to be key in their success.
The prison inmates typically have little to no education under their belt. Some at most have a high school education to show for. The average age for offenders is between their 20’s and 30’s which is right around the time they could be in college or graduating onto a career. The job opportunities for people who do not complete high school are slim with only minimum wage jobs or the military. This...
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