Cautionary Instruction: Investment in education saves money and victims

Friday, 27 December 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Matt Mangino

20131227 highschoolgradpaths photocom78479818 150America could save as much as $18.5 billion in annual crime costs if the high school male graduation rate increased by only five percentage points, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

“The nation needs to focus dollars and efforts on reforming school climates to keep students engaged in ways that will lead them toward college and a career and away from crime and prison,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The school-to-prison pipeline starts and ends with schools.”

There is an indirect correlation between educational attainment and arrest and incarceration rates, particularly among males, the report found. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 56 percent of federal inmates, 67 percent of inmates in state prisons, and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school. Additionally, the number of incarcerated individuals without a high school diploma is increasing over time.

The report found that increasing the male graduation rate would decrease crime nationwide. According to the report, annual incidences of assault would decrease by nearly 60,000, larceny by more than 37,000, motor vehicle theft by more than 31,000 and burglaries by more than 17,000.

The increased graduation rate would also prevent nearly 1,300 murders, more than 3,800 occurrences of rape and more than 1,500 robberies, according to the report.

In Pennsylvania, the potential savings from a five percent increase in the male high school graduation rate is enormous. The report estimates $737 million in savings in crime related costs and an additional $48 million is earnings and tax revenue from individuals who are employed and not incarcerated.

There is more to the crime and education connection than just course work and passing grades. The combination of largely unnoticed actions undertaken by individual schools affects education climates for millions of students in thousands of schools across the country. These school climates, in turn, often profoundly affect student performance.

Nationwide, many high schools are using zero-tolerance policies that often suspend, criminalize, and incarcerate youth. A recent study by The Civil Rights Project estimated that one in every nine secondary school students had been suspended in the 2009–10 academic year. Students who are suspended once in the ninth grade are found to be twice as likely to drop out as those students not suspended.

An investment in education is an investment in crime prevention. The potential to save money, generate revenue and minimize the anguish that comes with victimization is too important to ignore.

(Image: Comstock and AndreyPopov/ Getty Images)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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