Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Jails vs. Schools: which one benefits society?

Back in my old hometown of Austin, MN the school levy referendum failed. It would have raised taxes $84/yr on a $100,000 home. To many, any additional money paid in taxes is too much but this is the same city that approved the construction of a $30,000,000 jail/justice center shared by the city and county. In contrast, the school levy referendum would have provided the school district with just over $1,000,000/yr. in additional operating funds.

Which of the two - schools or a jail - benefits society more in the long run? Schools prepare the next generation for jobs. Those buildings need to be stocked with equipment and teachers who are at the top of their game - they need to be of the highest quality and the best of the best. Schools serve the children of everyone and everyone who has ever reached the age of five has benefitted from schools - the majority benefitting from public schools which are taxpayer funded.

Then there are jails. They are filled with people who didn't see the value or need to abide by our city, state or nation's laws. They are arrested, booked and placed in jail. Some go to trial while many serve their time and consider it their debt to society for doing wrong. In either case, they stay in these buildings on the taxpayer's dime. I see no reason why a jail needs to provide anything beyond the most basic of necessities. The simple fact that jails have televisions anywhere inside them is nothing short of excessive to me. I don't care if the televisions are for employees, visitors, stray cats or those who are locked up - a television is a luxury and is unnecessary if you are being punished for a crime. And housing law breakers in a $30,000,000 building is so far beyond excessive that I can't even think of words for it.

Why do we feel the need to spend $30,000,000 on a building to house criminals when there are millions and millions of square feet of warehouse and commercial space sitting vacant? Is our government so spend happy that even those who many see as the bottom rung of society need a special building to live in at the expense of others? How many cities and counties require their inmates to actually work doing something while they serve their time? I know for certain that in Scott County (Minnesota) the inmates spend every waking hour indoors at the jail. To some the simple fact that they are not allowed outdoors adds to the punishment but I feel that working to pay your debt to society builds more character and could actually lead to a better place for them down the road than sitting around for days on end doing little to nothing.

Yes, inmates, prisoners, criminals - whatever you choose to call them - sit in relative luxury doing nothing while our schools who are asking for far, far less in the way of operating funds have to do without. They do without modern computers and they do without the best teachers because the best teachers realize that they can make more money in private schools.

So, which one - jails or schools - would you rather have your tax dollars spent on?

After you ponder that question, check out the equally compelling MinnPics and take a photographic journey through Minnesota.

1 comment:

Jacki said...

Hands down I think that schools are more important than jails. I'd rather tax money be spent on schools, teachers salaries, etc. Perhaps if more money was spent on schools, especially rural and inner city schools, there wouldn't be as much crime because the kids would be given a chance at a better education.