By Charlotte Young
Where is the federal government spending its money? What’s most important in this country: incarcerating or educating its citizens?
In a recently released report, “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Educate,” the NAACP brings attention to what they believe is a misuse of government spending in the prison system at the expense of the public school system.
According to Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, two years ago, Pennsylvania took $300 million out its education budget and allocated it to the prison budget. California spends 11 percent on prisons compared to the 7.5 percent spent on public universities. In Connecticut, $400,000 a year is spent to incarcerate one child.
In an interview with NPR, Jealous relays how the US has “five percent of the world’s people and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” Furthermore, he added that today in America, a black person is more likely to be incarcerated than a black person during the apartheid in South Africa.
African Americans represent 15 percent of crack users but 85 percent of the people locked up for using crack. This disproportionate percentage compares to the 65 percent of white crack users who only represent 5 percent of the people locked up for using.
High incarceration rates also mean that there are many black mothers behind bars, and without mothers being able to look after their children, the children find themselves in foster care.
“What it means for black kids, kids growing up in the inner city, is that their neighborhoods have been incredibly destabilized,” Jealous told NPR.
Besides speaking out about the disparities in government spending, the NAACP has made strides to address inequality in court charges. Last year in South Carolina, the organization’s efforts completely dissolved the state’s disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine. They were also able to get rid of New York’s Rockefeller drug laws, and are assisting with 18 smart crime bills in Texas.