Just like you, I was born in a corrupt world and just like you, I didn’t choose the time nor the place or the problems before I came into this life. I live in a neighborhood where the poor struggle to eat and out of random I was born into a galaxy where money rules our world. I reside in the United States where for some apparent unknown reason unfairness rules, we misuse our resources and we abuse our own.
Lets take California, for example. Our state currently spends $10.7 billion spent on criminal justice. This money could be used for educational growth for safer healthier communities. California has a huge problem, but if I was governor I could a figure out a more economical way to save money. I would take the $10.7 billion and divide it. I would spend $727 million in canceling all of this year’s 900 prison and jail projects and I know this would push for an actual change to a long lasting problem of the thousands of Californians held in jails who have not yet been convicted of a crime, but are rather awaiting trial. [pullquote]When it comes to the death penalty, we could also save $184 million if we replaced it with just life in prison. I understand that for some, a death of the prisoner may seem fair, but I believe a sentence without freedom is like a death zombie stuck in a cage. This is a bigger punishment than death itself.[/pullquote]
In regards to education I would take $835 million into the K-12 budget and $550 million extra to fund school renovation and construction in neighborhoods with the most crowded and rundown schools. Last year alone there was an estimated 200,000 fewer students who were unable to attend a California college due to proposed cuts or raises in tuition. I would address this problem and invest $300 million from savings to fund 60,000 spots in college or Cal Grants for CA students. Every dollar we spend on jails is a dollar spent on education we can prevent or reduce crime by giving students the opportunities, and more time and patience in schools and in their communities.
I believe that everyone is the future. Let’s make a difference together lets create a more educational society. If one educated mind can change the world, imagine millions. If a single touch of kindness can change a life, imagine millions. If education can take us from earth to the moon, imagine the possibility of millions. With the millions of dollars saved we can take the negative and create a positive. We can hire more teachers and more counselors. We can show we are changing the world by first changing our systems. Gandhi once said, “Let us be the change we want to see.” Are you ready for change?
By VoiceWaves Youth Reporter Christian Glider
“If it is not broken, do not fix it” is a widely used euphemism. Assuredly, I say to you, this not the case-situation for California’s current budget balancing blunders. Hard-earned, income tax-dollars are being siphoned into an overcrowded prison system that either punishes criminals too severely or not enough based on their social-economic backgrounds. This prejudiced and grossly unjust system is causing a generational curse and has us re-evaluating the process of justice in this state. There is a problem with California’s penalty system. With active engagement and persistent involvement from united communities, it can be resolved.
Build Colleges not Prisons: Currently California’s colleges are turning away eager to learn students as result of lack in funding and space. This debacle was not forecasted in California’s Master Plan for educating its citizens, which promised every qualified student a chance to go to a university to pursue higher education. Sequentially, the quantity of miles traveled or hours spent commuting between college campuses is pushing more students out of college. Today, almost 70,000 students attend two college campuses to get the necessary classes per semester to meet graduating requirements. In 2012, the percentage of students attending more than one school has nearly tripled since 1992.
The reality for Black and Latino defendants waiting for trail is harsh and unfair, because they are more likely to be held in jail for an inability to post bail and charged or convicted for drug related crimes compared to white defendants. This is one of the primary vehicles for inequality for justice in our society today. Traps and pitfalls of a disproportionate punishment system have left Black or Latino men and women in a vicious cycle of social-economic problems. The Drug war that was unleashed during the Ronald Regan era, has almost permanently bitten off a huge chunk from the body of the aforementioned population’s and has swallowed them into a belly of second class citizenship we call the new Jim Crow era. In this belly of a generational curse, criminals are waiting for long-unconstitutional periods of time before trial, to be convicted for minor or a drug related crimes.
This type of broken system results with a disenfranchisement that affects nearly 13 percent of African American voters and has effectively inflicted wounds of voter suppression, discrimination in employment, housing, and temporary or permanent loss in voter rights. [pullquote]Today, the amount of incarcerated Black men in California alone exceeded the number of Africans that were previously jailed in apartheid South Africa. Latino men in California’s correctional treatment facilities are the largest portion of the population.[/pullquote]
Given the privilege to govern the beautiful state of California’s budget, with the extra saved from spending less on prisons, I would invest in more technologically advanced educational facilities. K-12 funding in California is the biggest ticket on the budget each year, yet there is still disparage between the average amounts of money spent on each student’s tuition in public schools, in contrast to states around the country, California spends the least amount on average for its pupils.
Educating our youth is paramount to ensuring an optimistic future for our state and countries well-being. With California being penultimate to last place when it comes to counselor to student ratios at nearly 1,000 students per counselor, is drastically failing youth with appropriate guidance. I would allocate much more funds to guide our youth, fund more creative and exciting after-school enrichment programs, and also create focus groups that give youths a way to explore, and choose their pathway to a specific career, through training and mentorship.
Results may vary, between happier and more productive citizens to decreased high-school and college drop-out rates. By funding the expansion of building more educational facilities and providing adequate faculty along with more guidance counselors, drop-out rates will exponentially decrease as direct result of better preparation for futuristic innovation and creativity. Inspiring students to have an entrepreneurial passion for service will instill the value of producing quality goods and services which will strengthen our economy into making fewer imports and more exports to become the global leader on international trade markets. After attaining steady economic growth, the quality of life in California will be much improved and people will have the awareness to live a happy and healthy life, while doing the best to maintain, nurture and protect our beautiful state’s natural resources.
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.
VoiceWaves asked its new youth reporters how they would change the system by entering the Think Outside The Box Contest, 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 week, VoiceWaves will continue to showcase two youth entries.