Say It Isn’t So

By The News May 21, 2007

Oh, but it is. For the first time, California will spend more on its prisons than for its higher education systems, making it the only state with a bigger prison budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities. Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities. But California has all but guaranteed that prisons will eat up an increasingly large share of taxpayer money because of chronic failures in a system that the state is now planning to expand.

The numbers are just disturbing.

Under a new state law, California will spend $7.4 billion to build 40,000 new prison beds, and that is over and above the current annual operating budget of more than $10 billion. Interest payments alone on the billions of dollars of bonds that will be sold to finance the new construction will amount to $330 million a year by 2011 — all money that will not be available for higher education or other state priorities.

Hasta la vista education…