Today, more of Michigan’s money is being spent on prisoners than on students in pursuit of higher education.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world, costing Michigan billions of dollars.
In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men was in prison or jail, meaning the U.S. correction system held more than 2.3 million inmates. Within a decade, state spending per person on higher education declined 35 percent, but public spending per prisoner increased 42 percent.
“It costs around $34,000 a year to keep someone in prison here in Michigan,” Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Russell Marlin said.
That number continues to grow more and more every year, costing the state money it doesn’t have, he said.
In 2002, Michigan spent $2 billion on higher education and $1.7 billion on prisoners. In 2012, $1.3 billion was spent on public colleges and universities and $2 billion on prisons, The Detroit News reported.
“Our costs have been rising due to increasing employee pension, health care and other post employment benefits,” Marlin said.
Michigan’s incarceration rate is higher than the average of the Great Lakes states and higher than national averages.
On top of that, Michigan’s prisons are generally smaller than prisons in other states, which limits Michigan’s ability to reap economics of scale from operating larger facilities.
However, Marlin said comparing Michigan’s costs to the national average is tough.
“It’s hard to compare to other states because not everybody includes all costs associated with operating a corrections system,” he said.
Dearborn Heights senior Colleen Doyle said state money should go to further improving students through the education system rather than spending it on criminals.
“I’m appalled by the numbers, and I wish the money would be spent more effectively to better the youth of America,” she said.
By using the money being spent on prisons on schooling instead, the population could benefit, Doyle said.
“If more money is spent on education, then maybe we won’t have so many people in prison in the future,” she said.