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Study: California spends more on prisons than schools

prison November 2, 1996
Web posted at: 8:00 p.m. EST

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Prisons now top higher education as a state spending priority for the first time, according to a new study.

Since 1984, California has built 21 new prisons and one university, according to Dan Macalliar of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

"The prison building binge that California has engaged in has not had any effect on crime," Macalliar said. "In fact in many cases, it's gotten worse."


The study recommended a freeze on prison construction and a ceiling on the state's prison population.

But some state officials claim the study's figures are inflated. The state Department of Corrections said the prison building surge is in direct response to voter demand.

"Our prisons were overcrowded. We had not had any prisons built since the late sixties," said the department's J.P. Trembley.

Four times as many African American males are in California's prisons than in the state's universities, according to the study.

Trembley said prison building is not a racial decision.


"We don't look at their race or their ethnicity when they come up or when they go before a judge or when they commit a crime," he said.

But others, such as the Rev. Amos Brown of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, say the current spending pattern creates a downward spiral.

"We should be concentrating our energies on putting appropriate amounts of moneys into the educational system," Brown said, "and stopping this nonsense of building all these prisons."

Correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.


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