Education and Crime

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Education is critical in ensuring the nation’s success. Unfortunately, our system is not fully providing the education students need to succeed, thus the nation is forced to address economic and social consequences. Recent studies indicate that a poor education can lead to a steep increase in criminal behavior, and the expense of incarcerating an individual greatly outweighs the cost of providing an education for the same person. During a time when crime prevention and a decrease in spending are high on the political agenda, investing in sound education policy simply makes sense. Receiving an adequate education is a civil right and a matter of public safety. Below are recent findings regarding the correlation between education and crime.

  • Research indicates that about 75 percent of America�s state prison inmates, almost 59 percent of federal inmates, and 69 percent of jail inmates did not complete high school. Increasing the graduation rate and college matriculation of male students by only 5 percent could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $8 billion each year.i
  • A ten percent increase in the male graduation rate would reduce murder and assault arrest rates by about 20 percent, motor vehicle theft by 13 percent, and arson by 8 percentii
  • State prison inmates without a high school diploma and those with a GED were more likely to be repeat offenders than those with a diplomaiii
  • Pennsylvania spends about $2.6 billion on prisons and jails annually; in Pennsylvania, the average annual cost of incarcerating an individual is about $32,000 while the average annual cost to educate a student is about $9,500.iv
  • Increasing the high school completion rate by just 1 percent for all men ages 20-60 would save the U.S. up to $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime.v
  • Preschool programs create economic benefits–including reduced costs of crime, drug use and teen parenting–that range as high as $7 for each dollar investedvi
  • A one-year increase in average years of schooling for dropouts would reduce murder and assault by almost 30 percent, motor vehicle theft by 20 percent, arson by 13 percent, and burglary and larceny by about 6 percentvii

These facts and figures provide insight into one of many reasons why public education is a worthwhile investment. With high crime rates and a strained economy, public education must be a priority to avoid some of the palpable effects facing the country today. By providing a better education for our children we provide these students with the tools to function successfully in society.

i Saving Futures, Saving Dollars: The Impact of Education on Crime Reduction and Earnings. p.1 (August 2006) The Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington, DC.
ii Moretti, E. (October 2005). Does education reduce participation in criminal activities? Research presented at the 2005 Symposium on the Social Costs of Inadequate Education. Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY.
iii Harlow, C. (2003). Education and correctional populations. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
iv Mitra, Dana. Pennsylvania’s Best Investment: The Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education. Rep. Philadelphia: Education Law Center, 2012. Print. p. 15
v Harlow, C. (2003). Education and correctional populations. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
vi Levin, Henry M., and William H. Kilpatrick, comps. The Social Costs of Inadequate Education. Publication. Campaign for Educational Equity, 2005. Teachers College Symposium on Educational Equity. TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, 24-26 Oct. 2005. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
vii Id
viii Id