One of the favorite slogans of the "Incarceration Nation" crowd is, "Schools Not Prisons!" This is shorthand for the argument, such as it is, that the money we spend on prisons would be better spent on schools.
There are at least two tacit assumptions going on here. The first is that we're not getting all that much for the money we spend on imprisonment. The second is that we'd get a good return, or at least a better one, by putting the money into education.
Both assumptions are, not merely wrong, but demonstrably preposterous. I have shown previously that the money we invest in imprisonment has reduced serious crime -- murder, rape, robbery and so on -- by more than one million episodes a year. I am not aware of any domestic program, ever, that has had such dramatic and beneficial results.
And what's the return on the much larger amount of money we have spent on education? While billions upon billions have been poured into schools and teachers, and education spending per pupil has doubled over the last forty years, the improvement in educational attainment has been -- ready now? -- zip.
That's zip, as in zero. The charts tell the tale (courtesy of John Hinderaker at Powerline). This is something to remember next time someone from Occupy Wall Street, or whatever, starts chanting "Schools Not Prisons."