I feel like no one in politics can ever agree, and that if a bill were introduced to, say, ban child abuse, someone would come out against it. But still, I feel like this is something everyone should support.
There’s a strong correlation between kids whose families aren’t there for them and kids who end up in jail. And there’s a strong correlation between kids who can’t finish high school and kids who end up in jail. Or selling drugs. Or homeless. Or shot by peers.
Take a wild gander at how much keeping children locked up costs us each year.
An estimated $1 billion.
Why do we make it so hard for these kids to get help? Why don’t we offer GEDs and the like to people in jail? (And not just the kids, although they need it most.) Why are we not doing more job training? We spoke tonight with someone who runs a bookstore. It’s run entirely by kids who were referred there by the Department of Social Services and by probation officers. They learn job skills. “It takes them a long time to see that they matter,” she told us. Soon they come to realize that, and she praised their work ethic after that. One kid came in to talk to us. He didn’t want to speak about his past, so I don’t know the story, but he’s 17 and in this program. He’s working on finishing up high school, and is not just working in this business, but is one of the people helping to run it. After a while, the kids “graduate” out of the program and get real jobs, or go to college.
It’s impressive, but it gets exponentially more impressive when you realize that every single person in this program is someone who would be in jail, committing crimes, homeless, or some other miserable fate that’s not just bad for them, but a drain on society as a whole.
Why is this program an anomaly? Why are we not trying to place every kid who’s in jail in programs like this? It’s costing us $1 billion to keep them in jail. They’re wasting their lives away there and, when they get out, they’re almost certainly not going to be any different. The recidivism rate in the US is at about 60%. That is to say that 2 out of 3 people release from jail will end up in jail again.
It sounds like the system is very broken. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t lock violent criminals up. If you commit a crime you should go to jail. But it seems incredibly short-sighted to not educate these people and help them get jobs. If you come out of jail and the government helps place you in a job, you’re going to have less incentive to sell drugs or hold up convenience stores. And if you get an education and/or job training? Even better!
Of course it’s not a cure-all. People will always do stupid things because they’re drunk, or stab someone because they’re angry. But when two-thirds of people who go to jail get trapped in a downward spiral of crime, I think it’s time that we do something to try to help. By all means, we need other stuff too. But I’m fed up with people giving the ax to plans for petty reasons like, “There would still be some criminals.” Of course there will. But let’s at least start to do something!