Prison Spending Outpaces Higher Ed

Cincinnati Post - August 28, 2002
   

Cincinnati Post

By Michael Collins

WASHINGTON Ohio’s prison budget ballooned dramatically over the
past two decades and grew five times faster than state higher education
spending, a new study concludes.

Meanwhile, there are more African-American men in prison in Ohio than
are enrolled in the state’s colleges and universities, the report says.

“This report underlines the sad reality that the nation’s colleges and
universities have lost budget battles to the growing prison system,” said
Vincent Schiraldi, one of the report’s authors and president of The
Justice Policy Institute, a Washington think tank pushing for criminal and
juvenile justice reform.

Ohio’s growing corrections budget is part of a national trend.

State corrections spending began to outpace higher education spending
in the 1980s as policymakers responded to public concerns about crime
by allocating more resources to house and incarcerate a larger prison
population.

Across the country, state spending on corrections grew at six times the
rate of higher education spending between 1985 and 2000, the report
says.

But as corrections assumed a larger share of state spending, the burden
for paying for college shifted to students, with tuition and other higher
education fees rising at eight times the rate of state support.

In Ohio, higher education spending increased by 38 percent, or $670
million, between 1985 and 2000, while corrections spending skyrocketed
by 211 percent, or $1.026 billion.

Ohio still spent far more on higher education than on corrections in
2000 $2.4 billion vs. $1.15 billion.

But over the past 15 years, spending on prisons grew at 5.5 times the
rate of higher education, the study said.

Meanwhile, college tuition in Ohio increased by 32 percent at four-year
public institutions and 26 percent at private institutions between 1992
and 2001.

“As a state, we need to step back and see whether we are making the right choices,”
said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy
research institute. 

By allowing prison spending to outpace the higher education budget,
“we’re showing we’re not very future-oriented,” Hanauer said.

“We should make a commitment to investing in higher education, and
we should realize that it’s growing in importance in our society and it
needs to be growing in our budget.”

In 2000, the study says, there were about 23,200 African-American men
in prison in Ohio. By comparison, 20,074 African-American men enrolled
in the state’s colleges and universities.

The report’s authors acknowledge that they cannot definitely say
whether the prison system is actually siphoning off African-American
men who were destined for college.

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