We all pay a lot of money in taxes. We pay state, federal and local taxes. We pay income, sales, and property taxes. We pay invisible taxes in terms of higher prices to cover taxes paid by businesses.
Our taxes are used to pay for a lot of things. We all have different opinions about which of those things deserve to be funded. But we’re all in agreement that if the government is going to spend our money for something, we should get our money’s worth. Everyone is in favor of cutting government waste.
What if you heard that there was a government program with failing outcomes sixty percent of the time? What if you heard that those rates were worse than they were 20 years ago, not better? What if you found that the more times the program had a chance to work, the more likely it was to fail? What if you learned this program was being expanded, while popular programs like education were being slashed?
What if you found out that despite the state of Pennsylvania spending over a billion-with-a-B of our tax dollars every year on that program, they were not stating the full costs, but rather listing nearly a half a million dollars of the true cost under other general budgetary items like “underfunded pensions” and “debt service?”
Knowing this, would you want this program expanded? Would you want it privatized exactly as is, with no accountability for better outcomes? Would you incentivize failure by allowing those private contractors to be paid to try again after the first, second, third, or multiple failures?
Yet we just accept those types of miserable outcomes from our prisons. We call them “correctional institutions.” We know that 90% of people who are imprisoned will one day be released to live with the rest of us. Yet when over half of those who are released are re-arrested and often re-incarcerated within 3 years, we are satisfied to have things continue to be done the same way. We are willing to have money taken away from public schools in order to incarcerate more people and build more prisons, despite the fact that poor education and poor employment prospects predisposes young people to incarceration.
Several of us at Merion Friends Meeting feel called to pursue this issue. We will meet next at 9:30 am on June 22, 2013 in the Activities Building. Feel free to join us.
- “50 years after Birmingham: bigot released from crippling burden of hate” by Leonard Pitts
- Support prison libraries