Education & Incarceration

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
I’ve been on a walk on a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm if I was in LA
California dreamin’, on such a winter’s day.”


California Dreamin’ was written by John and Michelle Philips in 1963. But these days, it’s not always so glorious and glamorous in California. Although California is known for its sunshine and palm trees, there is a colder, darker side of California that is often evaded and ignored, low quality secondary education and high rates of incarceration.

Regardless of the long standing influence of Hollywood, and dogmatic tenacity of the paparazzi that leave no stone unturned when investigating the latest celebrity scandal or trend, scenes of injustice go unrecorded, and the true superstars of California, the children, go underrepresented, and are often forced to learn about the legal system the hard way. How has California come to this present state, and how have we as citizens allowed this systematic malfunction to thrive?

The education system and prison system are closely related. Often those who are neglected and fall between the cracks of the education system find themselves trying to crawl out of the ugly pit that is the prison system. We use preemptive strategies when it comes to war. We bombed Saddam before we had any evidence. So why not use these same strategies when it comes to education? Meaning if we invest more IN our education now, fewer people will need to turn to crime later.

The economic aspects of these issues are significant. According to the US Department of Justice the annual cost of an inmate in a California state prison is about $24,000. On the flip side, the California Department of Education says California spends about $7000 per student. Per capita, we invest more in our criminals than our children. Who profits from high rates of incarceration and drop out rates? Certain industries thrive on these statistics, the prison system being the most obvious. But there are others.

Currently, inmates earn from 30 cents to $1 an hour to make flags, office furniture, shoes, printing services, clothes, eye wear, gloves, license plates and more. The profit margins in these situations are high, making it hard for small business to compete.

I write about this issue because crime and incarceration affects the lives of millions of people all over the country. Looking towards the future I ask, what presidential candidate has any intent to do something about the high crime and incarceration rates in California and nationwide? Immigration is obviously an important issue. The main reason it’s an issue is because many Americans fear the loss of jobs to immigrants. Well, I see high incarceration and poor education also contributing to loss of jobs and an unqualified work force.


-Jordan Monroe, Los Angeles, California


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