This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
“The city spends $58,000 yearly on each adult inmate, $70,000 on each juvenile – nearly ten times what it spends to educate a child in its public schools.”
This quote is from “Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation” by Jonathan Kozol. The author was referring to New York City in 1995. I wonder, however, if similar words might be true now, right here in Philadelphia.
I hear our servants in Harrisburg saying, “Oh, but prisons are important too. Don’t you want to be safe on the streets? Then you will have to sacrifice some of the frills which the schools have been enjoying.”
That may sound convincing if you’re thinking of the short term. But let’s think of the long term for a moment. Let’s think of what might happen if we reopened some of those closed schools, reduced the student load in some of those classrooms, and reinstated some of those frills.
That might reduce some of the need for prison space 20 years from now.
So which way would you like to do it?
The writer is a former English teacher in South Korea.