Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
It’s an argument you often hear from the left about spending priorities. If only we’d take a large chunk of that money we allocate for corrections and put it, instead, towards education.
In this spending spree state we call Wisconsin, we’re not cheap when it comes to our prisons, no doubt about it.
The Wisconsin Family Council recently released the comprehensive Wisconsin Cultural Indicators, an overview of important indicators that impact Wisconsin’s best natural resource: traditional families. According to the report:
“Expenditures per inmate have increased over the last several decades. Between 1970 and 2003, per inmate expenditures increased nearly 9 fold in Wisconsin from $4,505 to $40,096 per capita. In 2003, Wisconsin ranked 15th among the states in the amount of total state corrections expenditures. During this year, Wisconsin spent over $9 billion on state corrections. Since 1960, the adult prison population in Wisconsin has increased 8 fold, and between 2000 and 2005, there was a 66.7 percent increase in the adult prison population.”
Yes, we’re locking up lots of bad guys, and yes, we’re paying a pretty penny to keep them incarcerated. But make no mistake, the cost of corrections isn’t short-changing our commitment to education. From Wisconsin Cultural Indicators:
“Expenditures on public primary and secondary education in Wisconsin have increased to $9.9 billion for the 2006-07 school year. In 2005, Wisconsin’s per student spending was 15 percent higher than the U.S. average per student spending. During this same year, Wisconsin’s average spending per student was $10,605 compared to the U.S. average of $9,207.”
So, we aren’t cheap when it comes to school spending, either. Education is the largest expenditure in the entire mammoth state budget.
Corrections vs. education doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition, nor should it. Money spent on public safety is a wise, if I may use the word liberals always use as code for spending, “investment.” Again, from Wisconsin Cultural Indicators:
“According to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, a violent offense was committed at a ratio of one every 32 minutes, 23 seconds in 2006. In 2006, there were 165 homicides (one every 2 days, 5 hours, 5 minutes), 1,241 forcible rapes (one every 7 hours, 3 minutes), 5,634 robberies (one every 1 hour, 33 minutes) and 9,183 aggravated assaults (one every 57 minutes, 14 seconds).”
Earlier this year, the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project reported that at the end of 2006, Wisconsin had 23,431 inmates. One year later, at the end of 2007, Wisconsin had 22,690 inmates. That’s a decrease of 741 inmates, or a 3.2% decline. Wisconsin is bucking the national trend of locking up more prisoners.
In fiscal year 2007, according to this report, Wisconsin spent $890 million, or 6.7% of the state’s General Fund. How does that compare to education spending in Wisconsin? In fiscal year 2007, Wisconsin spent $1.214 billion on education.
Is the cost of corrections too expensive? It would cost more NOT to lock up criminals.
Crimes of rape, robbery, assault, personal and household theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft cost victims of crime in America billions of dollars each year according to the U.S. Department of Justice. These costs include losses from property theft or damage, cash losses, medical expenses, and amount of pay lost because of injury or activities related to the crime.
The National Center for Victims of Crime also keeps crime statistics:
• Crime is estimated to create $105 billion in medical expenses, lost earnings, and costs for victim services. Factoring in the intangible costs, such as pain and suffering and a reduced quality of life, brings the total estimated cost of crime to $450 billion annually.
• Victims of violent crime and their families received benefits totaling $442.3 billion in federal fiscal year 2003.
• Medical expenses were 48 percent of all victim compensation payments in 2003; economic support for lost wages for injured victims and for lost support in homicides comprised 21 percent of the total; and 12 percent went toward mental health counseling for crime victims.
• Reported burglaries resulted in an estimated monetary loss of $3.5 billion, with an estimated average of $1,626 per burglary.
• In 2003, the average value of property stolen due to larceny-theft was $698. Cumulatively, $4.9 billion in property was stolen.
• The average monetary value of motor vehicles stolen in 2003 was $6,797. The total value of stolen motor vehicles was $8.6 billion.
• The average dollar loss due to arson offenses was $11,942 per offense in 2003.
When it comes to corrections and education, there doesn’t have to be a choice. We’re already spending more than half of our state budget on education. Cutting back on corrections would only make our streets less safe and cost us a lot more in the long run.