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Voter Ignorance on Prison Spending

The steady drumbeat of claims that locking up the bad guys is bankrupting our state governments has taken its toll in voter ignorance.  In a poll by the Public Policy Institute, 45% of California adults and 41% of likely voters wrongly named "prisons and corrections" as the largest item in the budget.  In fact, K-12 education is a vastly larger slice of the pie, 42% of general fund spending, but only 16% of adults and 22% of likely voters knew it was largest.  Prison spending is actually dead last of the categories mentioned.

ExpendTrend2.jpgAs this graph (from the National Association of State Budget Officers) shows, corrections spending has been and remains a sliver of state budgets nationwide.  (Click on the graph for a larger, clearer picture.)  We could let every last murderer and rapist go, and it still wouldn't fix the budget holes of the states in deepest trouble.

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