The Distracter FactorPosted by Lauren Jones on March 5th, 2010
Public education protests should send the message that students,
parents, teachers and other education staff are fed up with higher tuition for fewer services. Instead, news coverage has focused heavily on
the havoc created by those who broke from the larger protests yesterday across
The 150 people in the Bay Area who walked onto the 1-880 Freeway
were consequently arrested and taken to jail. Ten of the arrested protestors
were youth. This ploy to gain media attention was certainly successful. By now,
we have all seen the screenshots of protestors face down on 880, but what has
been lost in the coverage is the reason for it all. It is a huge statement when youth
decide that potentially being arrested or injured by a car is a small price to pay for
a better future. This statement is lost however, when reports of broken windows
and stopped traffic are deemed the news fit to print.
Here’s some news. In California it costs $604,552 per day to incarcerate the nearly 9,000 juveniles the state holds in residential placement. That is approximately $24,641 per year to incarcerate one youth. By contrast, it is a mere $4,026
to send one student to a CSU university to school for the year. The figures
speak for themselves about our priorities. But what price are Californians
paying for this practice?
“It just really sends a clear message that in 10 years they expect us to be in one of those correctional facilities that they keep pumping money into – the money taken from our school system,” says Rosa Baltodano, program coordinator at the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco.
The correlation between the lack of educational opportunities and imprisonment is direct, according to a report by Northeastern University. The study found that 18-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts had an incarceration rate 31 times that of males who graduated from a four-year college." If you're a young black male with no high school diploma, you are 60 times more likely to end up behind bars than your classmates who earned a bachelor's degree.
Budget cuts are affecting us all – even staff at the California Department of Corrections. An email to Paul Verke, media liason at the Department of Corrections, sent by this blogger prompted an automated out-of-office reply, “I will be out of the office…due to the State-mandated furlough program.”
Those who work to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system know
that alternative to detention programs could address concerns about public safety that arise when speaking of cuts in prison spending. We know that alternatives for youth who are
deemed low and medium-risk are more cost-effective than incarceration, reduce
recidivism, and encourage rehabilitation.
By contrast, cuts to education cost more in the long run. It
is clear where the funding for education should be shifted from in California: prison spending. Our kids
deserve to be in school, not in jail and not in the streets. It is shameful
that they even have to protest for the right to affordable and quality
We cannot control the media, but we can control our state representatives. Write letters and petition the state congress. It’s not enough to flood the streets and have the intended message lost in the media’s translation. Remind California’s government that we don’t work for them, they work for us.
Lauren Jones is a Communications Intern for the BI/CJNY and a senior at San Francisco State University, studying Journalism.
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