Educate Over Incarcerate

The Problem
Over the last two decades, prison spending in the United States has increased 6 times more than spending on higher education, while higher education costs are being shifted to students and parents. Prison spending is costly and undermines the quality of life for all Americans.


  • America has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
  • Americans spend $70 billion annually to incarcerate 2.3 million of people in prison and jail, to keep millions more under parole and probation supervision.
  • Between 1980 and 2006, after health care, prisons saw the second biggest increase in state spending and spending for higher education, K-12 schooling declined.
  • During the latest recession, thirty-three (33) of the 50 states, spending on corrections increased more than previous year, as state spending for K-12 and higher education decreased.
  • Between 1987 and 2007, state spending on corrections grew 6 times the rate of spending on higher ed.

From One in 100: Americans Behind Bars. (2008). Washington, DC: Pew Center on the States and the Public Safety Performance Project.

Solution: Time to shift resources from prison budgets to education budgets through establishing reinvestment commissions and implementing their recommendations.
How to ensure Education over Incarceration?


Problem: Over the last two decades, the spending on prisons in the United States has increased
6 times more than spending on higher education, while higher education costs are being shifted to students and parents. Prison spending is costly and undermines the quality of life for all Americans.
What is a Reinvestment Commission?
A Reinvestment Commission, independent government entity established through legislation or executive order by Governor, brings together individuals seeking to reform current criminal justice policies. These key players may be prosecutors, judges, police executives, defense attorneys, researchers of criminal justice, and community members. The purpose of a Reinvestment Commission is to get various members of the community to identify criminal justice alternatives, reduce prison populations, and save state dollars. Commissions will research and recommend ways to change their state’s policies and practices so that resources from the prison budget will be shifted to the education budget, while reducing the local prison population.
How will the Reinvestment Commission help?
States like New Jersey, Texas, and Michigan have used Commissions to downsize prisons and save millions. States have enacted recommendations from commissions that have eliminated mandatory minimums, reduce technical violations that send low-level offenders back to prisons and eliminate racial disparities in incarceration. What is new about Reinvestment Commissions is that savings from reforms will be reallocated to education budgets.

Call to Action

Governments can free up hundreds of millions of dollars from prison spending to reinvest in education and other vital community needs. But saving money depends on the boldness of public officials to take action to reverse the policies that have contributed to prison expansion. In an effort to generate that political will, the NAACP is calling on all State units to engage elected officials to advance and establish legislative Reinvestment Commissions.
Reinvestment Commissions are entities created to identify legislative and policy changes to criminal justice policies that will reduce prison populations and shift savings from downscaled prisons to educational institutions.
In efforts to successfully advance the Reinvestment Commission, the NAACP and allies will establish coalition partners of likely and unlikely allies, conduct best practices research on criminal justice commissions, educate and lobby elected officials, organize on college campus, and mobilize State NAACP units to hold elected official accountable for establishing a Reinvestment Commission.

Call to Action Components

Educate Over Incarcerate Coalition- The NAACP will establish an Educate over Incarcerate Coalition that will provide policy research, analysis and advocacy to advance and support the Reinvestment Commission.
Media and Messaging Campaign- The NAACP will advance a media and messaging campaign that will inform the public on the states’ over investment in prisons at the expense of educational opportunity and to convince adults and youth that their active involvement in the Educate over Incarcerate Coalition is essential to getting states back on track with how it invests its public dollars.
Research and Best Practices- The Educate over Incarcerate Coalition will provide research and best practices to highlight the benefits and potential of a Reinvestment Commission. Educate and Lobby Elected Officials- The Educate over Incarcerate Coalition will effective lobby elected official to support and advance a Reinvestment Commission.
Organize on College Campuses- The NAACP Youth and College Division can organize teach-ins, events and activities that will enlist college students’, professors’, and University Administrators’ support and participation in the Educate Over Incarcerate Coalition efforts.

Posted in education.