California devotes $179,400 to keep a juvenile in detention for a year, and spends less than $10,000 per student in its schools.
This statistic lands smack dab in the middle of Nicholas Kristof's latest Sunday column. He elaborates on yet another story of "justice run amok" by sharing the tale of Edward Young, a 43 year old man once convicted of several burglaries as a younger adult. Since his days of pilferage, Young has married, raised four children, and taken a job working six days a week.
Kristof describes the tragedy:
Then a neighbor died, and his widow, Neva Mumpower, asked Young to help sell her husband’s belongings. He later found, mixed in among them, seven shotgun shells, and he put them aside so that his children wouldn’t find them.
“He was trying to help me out,” Mumpower told me. “My husband was a pack rat, and I was trying to clear things out.”
Then Young became a suspect in burglaries at storage facilities and vehicles in the area, and the police searched his home and found the forgotten shotgun shells as well as some stolen goods. The United States attorney in Chattanooga prosecuted Young under a federal law that bars ex-felons from possessing guns or ammunition. In this case, under the Armed Career Criminal Act, that meant a 15-year minimum sentence.
...We also have a serious problem with the irresponsibility of mass incarceration. When almost 1 percent of Americans are imprisoned (and a far higher percentage of men of color in low-income neighborhoods), our criminal justice system becomes a cause of family breakdown and contributes to the delinquency of a generation of children. And mass incarceration interacts with other government policies, such as the way the drug war is implemented, to have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans. Black men use marijuana at roughly the same rate as white men but are more than three times as likely to be arrested over it.
Interesting note to ask ourselves what exactly we are paying for with that $179,400 price tag.