Feds: Spending on CT jails grew faster than on education

The amount Connecticut state and local governments spend on jails and prisons has increased almost twice as fast as spending on education over the last 40 years, the federal government reported Thursday.

However, Connecticut’s disparity in spending grew at the second-lowest rate in the country.

Just over $9.5 billion was spent on preschool through Grade 12 education during the 2012-13 school year – a 161 percent increase in spending by state and local governments over the last four decades, after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, $643.9 million was spent jailing people – a 248 percent increase since 1980.

In 1980, only 4,551 people were incarcerated in Connecticut compared to 17,563 in 2013. As of June 2016, there were 15,250 inmates in state-run jails and prisons.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “For far too long, systems in this country have continued to perpetuate inequity. We must choose to make more investments in our children’s future. We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”

On funding colleges and universities, Connecticut used to spent two and a half times the amount it spent on jails. In 2013, the state spent just 10 percent more on higher education than on incarceration.

Funding per full-time student has dropped by 40 percent in Connecticut – one of the fast declines in the nation – while funding per inmates has increased by 52 percent.

“We can no longer afford this failure to invest in opportunity, only to lock up people once they’ve dropped out of school and turned to crime. These misguided priorities make us less safe and betray our values, and it is time we came together as a country to invest in our people and their capacity to contribute to society,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, when releasing the report.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the administration is working to reverse this trend.

“This report highlights what we in Connecticut have known for a long time – while our nation was investing in permanent punishment, we should have been investing in permanent reform. We built modern prisons instead of building modern schools. We are proud that Connecticut’s spending ratio of education to jails is the second best in the nation, but we know we can do better. That is why both education and criminal justice reform have been major priorities of this administration. As we’ve increased education dollars by hundreds of millions of dollars, we’ve dramatically changed our approach to criminal justice with Second Chance. Graduation rates have reached record heights, and our prison population is currently at a 20-year low,” said Meg Green.

Want more details? Read the full report here.

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