By Tony Shaw
Would our state rather send our kids to prison than educate them? Governor Doug Ducey’s budget confirms this with his intention to cut education spending while budgeting for thousands more private prison beds at a cost of $52 million to house nonviolent offenders.
As a private attorney for 42 years I have been involved in federal civil rights litigation against Arizona prison officials, last case concluding in 2013. In this work, I discovered our prison system is the third most costly budget item in the state. Our state has been paying private prisons to house nonviolent offenders for years, with no requirement of reporting and quality assessment. The recidivism rate is greater than ever, making us less safe. Here are some facts:
• As reported by The Blue Street Journal and Arizona Justice Alliance (AAJA), the U.S. spends six times more money on prisons than education and incarcerates five times more inmates than the world average.
• Approximately 10 years ago Arizona spent 40 percent more on universities than on prisons; today Arizona spends 40 percent more on prisons than universities.
• Arizona has the top incarceration rate in the West with 42,000 prison inmates in 2014, three times higher than the comparable population states, Washington and Massachusetts.
• In 20 years, Arizona population increased 100 percent while the prison population increased 1,036 percent, mostly caused by the War on Drugs, with non-violent offenders making up one-third to one half of the prison population.