Education, or Incarceration: Smith county officials force a choice.
It costs more than 29 thousand dollars a year to house an inmate in the TDC. That is not counting all the peripheral cost just to get him there. It costs much less to provide an education!
This aspect of criminal justice is one of the least tapped in the whole field. The fact is, that it is probably the highest common denominator in criminal justice, and gets the least attention. Looking at the rates of recidivism in Texas, and across the country, the answer becomes obvious. The State of Texas found that there is 20% lower recidivism for those who received a GED certificate and completed a vocational training while in prison.
Stopping crime before it starts.
The impact of education can not be taken lightly when it comes to avoiding the sort of lifestyle which might lead to incarceration. All of the studies, of which I am aware, say the same thing: The better the quality of the education, the less the chance of ending up in prison!
Prevention costs less.
The cost of education is a real bargain compared to the cost of prison, and that does not factor in the cost of the impact of committed crimes, or the cost of the process of getting the convicted person into the prison system to begin with.
Education is not the only factor, but it does seem to be a major factor, and may well be the major factor in this debate.
Why build a jail now?
This adds an ironic poignancy to the debate concerning the Smith county jail bond. It says something about the mindset of our county officials when they choose to present a jail bond package on the same ballot as a school bond package. It is illustrative of the fact that they either don’t understand the situation, or don’t care! I am not sure which is preferable, ignorance, or indifference, but it comes out the same.
This situation is even more dramatic, when you see that the programs and policies of our courts are lowering the incarceration rates, and that these programs are being increased, which will undoubtedly further reduce the numbers in the county facility to meet jail standards.