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September 6, 2012

New report examines how prison spending impacts higher ed in California

As reported in this local article, headlined "Prison Spending Affecting Higher Education in California: Report," a new report in California "looked at 30 years worth of data and crunched the numbers to show a long-term trend between state spending on prisons and on higher education."   Here is more about the report (which I will post if/when I find it on-line):

California is spending 1,370 percent more money on prisons today compared to 1980 levels. NBC Bay Area got the first look at a report from Los Altos-based, non-partisan research group California Common Sense (CCS) published Thursday....

[A]ccording to Director of Research Mike Polyakov, California spent $592 million on corrections in 1980.... That spending has jumped to $9.2 billion in 2011.

Meanwhile, higher education spending has decreased. A trend in what University of California and California State University faculty is being paid was detected in the research. “What we found is faculty salaries have decreased about ten-percent since 1990,” Polyakov said.

At the same time, Polyakov said prison guard salaries reached a record high in 2006.  “The average salary we calculated was somewhere in area of $100,000.  Today, it’s closer to $75,000.” So their pay has come down in the last few years, but CCS researchers found that correctional officers are still making anywhere from 50 to 90 percent above market rate compared to the rest of the country.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) spokesperson Ryan Sherman said it’s an unfair comparison because the cost of living in California is so high.  “Buying a house in the Bay Area is extremely expensive.  There’s a number of prisons in the Bay Area and so the officers need to be compensated appropriately in California.  CHP officers are paid more than correctional officers and it’s the same standards, same hiring practices they go through so I don’t know that they’re paid too much.  I think they actually deserve more," Sherman said....

Polyakov warns if this trend doesn’t reverse quickly and substantially enough, there could be major brain drain out of California because professors at public universities are getting paid too little.  "They’re behind market rates," Polyakov said.  "If you can’t pay your faculty as much as the other universities, as a comparable university does, well eventually they’re going to go there.”...

Gov. Jerry Brown was in office when the state spent five times more on higher education than on prisons.  NBC Bay Area caught up with him at a rally for Prop 30, which would increase sales and income taxes to help fund higher education.  Brown blamed the skyrocketing corrections spending on the prison-building boom.

“What happened in the intervening years is 23 prisons were built, and instead of getting three-percent of the general fund, it went as high as eleven-percent.  We’re reversing that.  Prisons are only going to get 7.5 percent, and that’s a real reduction in our prison system.”

Polyakov and CCS' point is that that may still not be enough. For example, the CCPOA is set to start salary increases again next year. “In 10 to 20 years, these are going to be really important issues.  Everything from the higher education funding.  Are we going to have enough college prepared students 10 years down the line?” Polyakov asked.

UPDATE: With thanks to the commentor who provided the link, the report discussed in this post is available here.

September 6, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Permalink


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The cost-of-living argument is disingenuous. The vast majority of California prisons are in rural areas in the Central Valley, where the cost of living is very low. San Quentin in Marin County is the only prison located in the Bay Area.

Posted by: Todd | Sep 6, 2012 1:01:16 PM

This is - in a roustabout way - evidunce that some folks don't need edjudication to get real smart.

Posted by: Al Ammo | Sep 6, 2012 2:41:52 PM

Well said Al Ammo. Great read!

Posted by: Naegle Law | Sep 6, 2012 5:57:05 PM

It would be illuminating to see a survey of what California taxpayers are getting for their dollar in terms of crime reduction, versus what they are getting for their dollar in terms of educational quality.

My bet is that increases in crime reduction beat increases in educational attainment hands down.

P.S. I very seriously doubt that higher education spending is less now than it was in 1980. Nor, in any event, is higher education spending the correct comparison. All state funding of education is the correct comparison for all state funding or imprisonment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 6, 2012 8:20:50 PM

The link to the full Report, entitled "Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California," by Prerna Anand, a Special Report published by California Common Sense, on September 5, 2012 is:

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | Sep 7, 2012 8:34:29 AM

indeed really.

Posted by: mayreanz | Jan 27, 2013 2:54:03 PM

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