This is What the School-to-Prison Pipeline Looks Like, In Two Charts


No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks ... in Philly and Chicago. This year 54 schools closed in Chicago and 23 closed in Philadelphia. Officials in both cities claim the cuts are due to low funds. Yet somehow, Illinois and Pennsylvania have found millions of dollars to spend on expanding prisons.

Take a look at the chart above. The cuts disproportionately affect African-Americans and Latinos. In each case, 90% of affected students are black, even though blacks make up about half of each city's population.

Yet, when it comes to incarcerating citizens, these states seem a lot less strapped for cash. In June, the state of Pennsylvania committed $400 million  to building a new correctional facility on the outskirts of Philadelphia. These facilities, named Phoenix 1 and Phoenix 2, will become the most expensive prisons in the state's history. 

The biggest investor in the prison system, though, is the federal government. For three years now the Obama administration has requested an incarceration budget increase. As Congress argues over deficits and student-loan rates, asserting time and time again that the country has no money to spend on anything, the federal prison budget is $8.6 billion. 

Chicago school closings will affect 30,000 students and 850 jobs. Thomson Correctional Facility is Illinois's newest $170 million investment. I guess cages are more important than books. 

There are some things in this world that just defy logic, and this is one of them. How many speeches can Obama give about the dangerous streets of Chicago before he fools himself into believing he is invested in those kids' best interests? President Obama has already surpassed Bush with his federal prison spending. And the United States still has the largest prison population in the world. The number shows no sign of coming down soon.

Oh, what a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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