Robbing the Scholastic Peter to Pay for the Incarcerated Paul: The Show-Me State Showing Its Mulishness (6)

Robbing the Scholastic Peter to Pay for the Incarcerated Paul: The Show-Me State Showing Its Mulishness (6)

By Jon Marc Taylor, Ph.D.

“New York’s success against crime over the past two decades,” observes Franklin Zimring, the author of The City that Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, “has proved the wrongheadedness of the incapacitation or nothing’ strategy.”

Second: The next stage of reform needs to be an action that substantially reduces correctional costs. A recent U.S. Senate survey of prison wardens from across the country revealed that half of their charges could be released tomorrow without jeopardizing public safety.

Missouri needs to immediately parole one-quarter of its prisoners, with another 20 percent over a three-year period. The lancing of the correctional carbuncle, even with the increased investment into transitional support and community supervision services, will shave over $200 million from the prison budget. This, in turn, allows such reinvestment in higher education from which it has been diverted in the first place.

Third: Missouri needs to institute a prison building moratorium. With yet another opportunity cost of $110 million and then, even more, having been cut from the state’s mental health care budget since 1999, resulting in jails and prisons becoming the second largest inpatient mental health warehouses in Show-Me-Land, liberal compassion, and conservative fiscal sense dictates that no more prisons should be built in Missouri. State resources for community care and the development of her citizens need to be invested elsewhere than in razor wire and death-fenced compounds.

Prison space is an expensive criminal justice resource and should not be used to incarcerate more than 70,000 Missourians. This will require the redrafting of sentencing and parole policies, as well as increased transition and reintegration programming support. To keep from simply refilling cell space (i.e., once you build it, they will find ways to fill it) and in turn expanding the circumstantial need for even more prisons, mandatory minimums need to be abolished. Existing long-term sentences, without 85 percent served before parole eligibility requirements, are more than sufficient to protect the community and express societal deterrence. The throttling of personal reformation and restricting government’s future options only stimulates the parasitic growth of the prison-industrial complex.

The University of Missouri does not begin its realigned membership in the South Eastern Conference until the 2012-2013 academic year. Thus, the retroactive comparison is valid.

Jon Marc Taylor, Ph.D., has received The Nation/I.F. Stone and Robert F., Kennedy journalism awards for his reporting on correctional and educational issues. Portions of this analysis were derived from his dissertation, “Pell Grants for Prisoners:  An Issue in Public Administration.”  He is also the author of the Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada (Prison Legal News 2009).