Why Are There So Many Oklahomans In Jail?

According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education, the number of Oklahomans in jail is growing 14 times faster than the adult population of the state and this number increased by 485 percent between 1980 and 2013.

See:  Report: Increases in Spending on Corrections Far Outpace Education

The report compares incarceration to education spending and shows some alarming information:

  • money spent on incarceration has grown 2.5 times that spent on education at the national level.
  • state and local support for public higher education has increased in only four states. Support has fallen in Oklahoma by 19 percent.
  • state and local money spent on corrections is nearly 5 times more than that spent on student education in Oklahoma.
  • increased money spent on education in Oklahoma ties for 10th lowest at 47 percent, while that spent on corrections is 11th highest at 230 percent.

According to John King, Secretary of Education

” education is proven to reduce crime and arrest rates … two-thirds of state prison inmates never finished high school and …. black men from 20 to 24 years old without high school diplomas or the equivalent are more likely to wind up in jail than employed.”

King said all this money should be spent on education, not corrections.

There are other factors at play apart from education.  With the increased number of privatized prisons the assertion could be made that it is actually profitable to have people in prison because it is a corporate venture.  There is also a push for prison reform through privatization from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  So the answer to the question why are so many Oklahomans in jail is a layered one.


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