Every tax dollar funneled into jails and prisons takes funding away from other services and needs, including K-12 and higher education. California currently allots $10.7 billion to its criminal justice budgets.
In the last two weeks, VoiceWaves asked its new youth reporters how they would change the system by entering the Think Outside The Box Contest.
Think Outside the Box is a project of the ACLU of California whose objective is to engage voters, youth and young adults around the California budgeting process.
The youth were asked to answer questions like, “What do you care about?”; “What would you do with the money saved if you were Governor of California?”; and “What kind of difference could you make?”
Every few days, VoiceWaves will be releasing two youth entries. Below are the entries of Joshua Jimenez, 18 and Angela Or, 17.
By Joshua Jimenez
Verse 1 (Intellect):
Now let me tell y’all,
The population, the working class amongst the victims
The injustices committed by the state, picture so vivid
So never will I bow down to a failed system
While we always wonder why our tax money’s missin
I care about rebuildin’ the hood, makin’ it good
For the governor, I make sure the struggle is understood
Guilty of the color of my skin, that’s imprisonment
No justice, no peace, for the poor and innocence
We’re spendin’ our figures, makin’ their pockets thicker
The state of denial, California prisons getting bigger
While oppression exists, we just maintainin’ the status quo
Marchin’ to the capital makin’ a change that is radical
See the solution, ain’t incarceration
Yet the FEDS steadily waitin’ for the infiltration
With every chance they get, they want to lock us up
More state prison bunk beds, they want the profit up
Black and brown youth in the system overcrowded
Sacramento politicians ain’t gon’ do nothing about it
So they roll with the punches, Jerry brown is just a puppet
$7.3 billion dollars in prison funding
Instead of spendin’ billions on sentencing the innocent
We need to fund schools, with education that is relevant
That’s why its up to us, change from the bottom up
Break it down chop it up so my people know what’s up
The California justice system is failing on us. The War on Drugs? It’s an attack on the working class people. More prisons means more poverty and more injustice.
We got to educate organize mobilize our communities to fight against these unjust laws that are made to oppress the working class. Folks just like you and me. I’m just statin’ the truth from the facts.
By Angela Or
California spends an unnecessary amount of money on incarceration. That money could be used for other things that are important, such as education. As the state budget decreases due to how much money California wastes on housing inmates, the K-12 budget also decreases. In California, the student to counselor ratio is 810 students per counselor. The textbooks at school aren’t up to date. Classrooms barely have supplies provided for students to work with. The restroom facilities aren’t clean enough or stocked daily. Even prisons provide their prisoners’ bathrooms with toilet paper.
[pullquote]It isn’t fair that a student should be turned away from school because they can’t afford it. Education is of great importance to me. Students who work hard should be allowed to go to school. A person goes to college to develop a career, which results in them making money in the future. Their livelihood is dependent on a good education.[/pullquote]The system discriminates against the poor and people of color. California is known for its diversity. Many families in California have emigrated here from different countries, so the system instead should benefit people of color. If California gave the children from those families financial assistance in education to develop a career through college, it could help provide income for those families so they wouldn’t have to rely on welfare and housing. That could result in saving taxpayers’ dollars as well.
The share of the state budget going to Corrections has grown from 4 percent to 10 percent in 25 years. That’s huge. If we could reduce that, we would save money and be able to use the money saved on issues in our community. If I were the governor of California, I would invest most of it on providing financial aid to students and providing more teachers and classrooms to students. Kids are the future and if they aren’t given the tools to succeed now, we as a society won’t progress far in the future.
If we could provide a better education to people, we could increase peoples’ skills and increase jobs. It would help provide income for poor families. If I were governor, I would make sure we were contributing to the futures of the youth in California. By keeping kids in school, we keep them out of trouble and in the long run, it will also result in less people incarcerated. Then California really wouldn’t need to waste unnecessary money on incarceration.