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OP-ED: We should educate, not incarcerate, our young people

06 October 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

A Salt Lake City West High School senior writes eloquently about the need to fight the growing trend, locally and nationally, to push some students out of school and into the criminal justice system.

By Marcelina Kubica, a senior at West High School and a member of Salt Lake Peer Court.
First Published in the Salt Lake Tribune on October 3, 2014.

Seventy billion dollars.

That is how much the United States spends annually on incarceration, probation and parole. Between 1987 and 2007, there has been a 127 percent funding increase for incarceration. In the same 20-year span, funding for higher education has increased a mere 20 percent.

These statistics show where the United States government places highest importance: incarceration, not education. Now, of course, fighting crime should be a priority of the government, as its primary role is to protect its citizens. Yet these increased expenditures aren’t necessarily even contributing to decreased crime. Michael Tonry of The New York Times explains how "rises and falls in Canada’s crime rate have closely paralleled America’s for 40 years … But its imprisonment rate has remained stable." Meanwhile, research by the American Psychological Association Task Force shows that students who do not graduate from high school are more than eight times more likely to end up in prison. So should we not be going back to the root of the issues and investing in stopping crime before it even happens?

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