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From the Atlantic via
Chart: One Year of Prison Costs More Than One Year at Princeton

NOV 1 2011, 10:24 AM ET 15
One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000

Prison and college "are the two most divergent paths one can take in life," Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion's share of government funding goes toward incarceration...

More proof that Howard Dean was right when he said:

Invest in social programs to avoid investing in prisons

In 1991, I had to cut spending. The Commissioner of Corrections came to me asking for a 14% budget increase. Everyone else was being asked to cut spending, but prisons-the most expensive and least effective social service investment we make- needed more money.
My view of social spending changed in that instant. Because studies show that any competent kindergarten teacher can make a pretty good guess about the five kids most likely to end up in prison, I decided to focus Vermont's efforts and money on new families with very young babies and children.

Today in Vermont, we invest in our children. We visit every child and new mother in the hospital at the time of birth. We offer home visits two weeks after discharge to talk about everything from nutrition to housekeeping to substance abuse to the value of reading. Last year 91% of moms accepted our visit. I believe that one day this program will result in much lower incarceration rates in Vermont.

Source: Campaign web site,, "On the Issues" Nov 30, 2002


This is the kind of thing that has to be framed in terms of "return on investment" in order to win over any Republican leaning independents.  Getting your money's worth is a workable theme in American politics.

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