Educate Versus Incarcerate

Posted earlier today by an acquaintance on Facebook. If you’d like to look at the full infographic close up and in greater detail, there is a good link to it here.

After looking it over, just thought I would type up a few thoughts. First take: interesting information and a powerful, if disturbing, visual metaphor.

Caveat: I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that the figure is blatantly a Male Person Of Color, but I can’t deny that this demographic certainly IS targeted to be shoveled into the prison system at a rate disproportionate to their numbers in the general population. And perhaps they are under-represented in the institutions of higher education as well–at least on graduation day? So…ok. Let that pass with the simple observation that sometimes the FACTS are uncomfortable. And that if they make you feel ooky, then maybe you should ask yourself how reality ought to be different, and see what you can maybe do about that. And now move on to the rest of the content.

Take 2: we are presented here with a dangerously false dichotomy. “Educate versus Incarcerate” is not enough. A healthy, correctly functioning society desperately needs more options than this. The fact that the USA holds a full 25% of the planet’s prisoners is very troubling, yes. But I don’t think that the solution is to funnel every person presently in the prison system into the university system–or into some combination of the university system and the military, which is the current solution.

As some of the numbers in the fine print at the bottom of the infographic page point out–a lot of the people in the prison system in North America right now are actually mentally ill! Such people need treatment and compassionate care, not distribution courses in math. (And not slave labor and a degree from Rape U, either.) If a sizable percentage of our population really needs to be institutionalized for mental health issues, then the institutions that need funding and revamping are mental health facilities, not more and more privately owned prisons.

(Hell, when it comes to the number of people wandering the streets with serious mental health issues…maybe we might want to ask ourselves why so many of us are so damned crazy. We probably ought to look to that little problem as well.)

Take 3: the idea that the path of the NON-mentally-ill high school graduate has to lead directly to college or prison is a dubious one. What about that very crucial Option #3: a job that requires no formal education, and still pays a decent wage?

What ever happened to Work as a thing that people did when they graduated from high school and became semi-official adults?

There is at least the possibility that the institutions of higher education in North America may be trying to educate too many people right now. Our current system and our current economy may be forcing a lot of people into school who would never go if the current crop of service jobs and entry-level jobs in labor industries were 1) locally available and 2) required to pay a living wage. And it may just be that when many of the current crop of college graduates get out of school, we will have nothing to offer them to pay off all those student loans.

Just food for thought here. I’m not going to claim that working at the factory, the plant, the mill or the service industry is for everyone, either. But I do think it is an option that needs to be restored to the North American population. And it is certainly objectively true that if the jobs were available, and if they paid a living wage per hour and were regulated by laws that prevented unfair treatment of employees, that our economy and our society would be a lot better off.

What do you guys think?

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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