Report: U.S. Prison Spending Grew at Three Times the Rate of School Spending

prisonvsedspendingchartAccording to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education, over the past 33 years, state and local spending on prisons and jails grew more than three times as fast as spending on schools.

While prison spending is still a fraction of overall education spending, expenditures on public pre-K through 12 education rose by 107% to $534 billion between 1979 and 2013, compared with a 324% spike in corrections spending to $71 billion.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in Wisconsin, over the same period, expenditures on education rose 72% to $9.8 billion, while spending on corrections rose 351% to $1.4 billion.

See the chart below for where Wisconsin ranks compared to other states:


Among the findings:

  • Over the 33-year period, the percentage increase in spending on corrections varied among the states, from 149% in Massachusetts to 850% in Texas.At the same time, K-12 expenditures rose from 18% in Michigan to 326% in Nevada.
  • Among the states, Wisconsin ranks 32nd in terms of its increase in per-pupil spending, which rose 69% to $11,186 over the three decades.It had the 13th highest percentage increase in per capita spending on corrections, up 241% to $323.
  • The U.S. spends about $80 billion annually on corrections.The number of people incarcerated in state and local facilities more than quadrupled from about 490,000 in 1980 to more than 2 million in 2014 — even as crime rates have fallen — due in part to the enactment of lengthy, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.
  • In exploring the link between education and incarceration, it said two-thirds of state prison inmates did not finish high school and that young black men ages 20 to 24 who lack high school diplomas or an equivalent have a greater chance of being incarcerated than being employed.It asserts that investing in education, and particularly early childhood education, can reduce criminal activity by altering student behavior, improve access to jobs and lower incarceration rates.

Read More: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Department of Education Release; charts via U.S. News & World Report