Monday, November 10, 2008

Investing in the Future - Prisons vs. Children and Families

I watched Marian Wright Edelman author of The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation, and the book I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children, as well as other books on education, society and family values.

Amazon has this biography -
"Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, and eight other books. She is the winner of many awards for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, a Heinz Award, and a Niebuhr Award. In 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. Edelman is a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School. She and her husband live in Washington, D.C., and have three children and four grandchildren."
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In the interview Marian Wright Edelman said, "we spend three times as much per person to keep a prisoner incarcerated as we do per child to be educated in our public schools."

I've been thinking for some time what a waste of resources it is to put people in prison for non-violent drug offences.

The U.S. prison population exceeds that of any other country both in total numbers and as a percent of the overall population. The federal government and states are forced to make a decision to fund the 55 billion dollar a year prison industry at the expense of preschool, early childhood education, vocational training and other programs. See New High In U.S. Prison Numbers - washingtonpost.com for additional information.

Instead of locking up people for non-violent drug offences we could turn some prisons into community colleges and vocational training centers and "sentence" people to counseling, training and an opportunity to learn a skill, get a job and become taxpayers. It's a good investment for the future.

The best investment for the future is of course to focus on children - health care, good nutrition, being read to at a young age, play, art, music, physical education and teaching them the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic. In a nation as rich as ours doing anything less is unconscionable from a moral standpoint and from a purely pragmatic point of view it means we are raising children who will one day be able to take care of others, work and of course...pay taxes.

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