Monday, December 9, 2013

Seriously? 'Push to give Pell grants to prisoners' (Nick Anderson, Education section, Washington Post)

Charles Manson is a cult leader and convicted mass murder--so like many felons he doesn't exactly have a history of playing well with others--but if he ever earned a Ph.D. in prison he should be hired (assuming he ever gets out of prison) over someone with a clean record?  And when Mr. Manson fills out that inevitable job application with that pesky standard question about whether or not he has ever been convicted of a felony, how likely is it that any rational employer is going to disregard a violent criminal history just because he holds an advanced degree?  In other words, 34.6 million in Pell grants for prisoners may be less than 1% of the program's annual budget, but in point of fact, it is a colossal waste of money because those resources could and rightfully should be used to educate the non-violent and law-abiding.  Add to that expense the annual average taxpayer cost in 40 states of $31,286 per inmate (per the Vera Institute of Justice in a 2010 study released in 2012) and many inmates who also get free health care have a standard of living that is better than many rank and file Americans.  The fact that the Post would bring attention to this highly controversial issue--a political lightning rod so extreme that even Democrats won't touch it--is, in effect, subtle advocacy of a truly radical ideal.  The Post should be less concerned about the flagging self-esteem of criminals and more concerned with the interests of John Q. Taxpayer for it is he who buys the subscriptions and pays the bills.

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