vile calculus

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

It wasn’t until the middle of the night about a week ago that I finally had an eureka moment. I was asking myself why so many kids today are charged as adults in this country for all kinds of crimes… I was mad as hell thinking of James Prindle waiting for his day in court, languishing in jail for over a year so far, receiving no schooling and only minimal health care services… and then it hit me: It’s the money, stupid!

It costs the states and other jurisdictions more money to incarcerate children than it does to incarcerate adults. Much more money.

If a prosecutor charges a child as an adult—even if a child like James is wrongfully accused and not even convicted of a crime—that child can be jailed in an adult facility where basic services normally afforded children (like schooling) are withheld. In this way, even though they justify adult charges on the basis of the supposed seriousness of the crimes, unethical and heartless prosecutors lower the costs of warehousing kids.

In California, for example, it cost an average of $47,102 a year to incarcerate an adult inmate in state prison in 2009. In 2008, it cost an average of $216,081 to incarcerate a child for a year in juvenile detention (and more in 2009)— 4.6 times as much. By way of comparison, per-student spending at the University of California was $25,100 in 2009.


If you apply this same multiplier to states that spend much less per adult inmate (state prison spending varied widely in 2005, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana, with an overall average of $23,876 per state prisoner), this same vile calculus should hold true. It goes a long way towards explaining why as many as 150,000 American children will be sent into adult incarceration this year.

Yesterday we learned that James Prindle’s case will not go to trial until May of 2012. Now remember, he was taken into custody on August 16, 2010, when he had just entered the ninth grade. This means that James will have missed two years of school because of his wrongful detention. How will he ever be able to make up for so much lost time? The State of Tennessee seems not to care. To the State of Tennessee, James is just another throw-away kid.

Well, we do care and regardless of whatever fiction the State of Tennessee may claim, we know that James is a child with potential who must be valued and nurtured. Yesterday Stephen and I talked and we decided that we must step into this vacuum of state cruelty, injustice, and neglect and take responsibility for James’ education while he awaits his coming day of presumed freedom. We will start our own virtual school and tutor James by mail while he is locked up. If the State of Tennessee won’t do right by James, we will.

It won’t cost so much. Showing him we care and helping James exercise his brain and build his self esteem will yield priceless results.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing “Find the Cost of Freedom”


5 Responses to “vile calculus”

  1. 1 Emmett
    December 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Always look at the money, but, its not as straightforward as it might seem. In your analysis it’s cheaper to place a kid in prison than in reform school, but, the financial interests associated with the reform school loose money when that occurs, and they too are a powerful group.

    Bottom line is this, somebody somewhere is making money off of institutionalized people, whether they are in prison, reform school, a psychiatric hospital, or an institution for individuals who have an intellectual impairment.
    Surrounding all institutions there are economic interests.

    Here are some of the economic interests; the hourly wage workers; i.e., guards etc,; the professionals who work via contract; i.e., health care professionals, mental health care providers, and the agencies that both are employees of; the food service providers, the laundry service providers, the phone companies who have contracts for all inmate phone calls, the maintenance providers, the contractors who service the facility, such as plumbers, and IT companies, electricians, heating and cooling companies; transportation companies, equipment companies for everything from specialized institutional furniture to flat screen TVs to kitchen equipment; uniform companies –the list is endless, everything that you can imagine you need in your life is needed inside an institution, and more.

    One thing to point out, even in prison kids are entitled to an education, and if they have special education needs they are entitled to special educational services in prison regardless of cost. If they need speech therapy they get it, if they need special tutoring because they have ADHD, they get it; they get whatever service they need as long as they have a special education advocate who will utilize the courts to get it for them.

    Without competent representation they won’t get anything, unfortunately very few criminal defense attorneys are aware of special education law and its possibilities for their incarcerated client.

  2. December 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Well said Dan!! No, as you know, I and “The Gang” do not for one moment believe that James is a “throw-away” kid. Just let us know what we can do (more) for him and your plan to help his education & we will do our best to “rally to the cause”. Will talk soon via E-mail about this and other pertinent matters. Take care mate. £ance.

  3. 3 matt
    December 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the function of his own life to the utmost, has always the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others. – John Ruskin

  4. 4 Frank Manning
    December 18, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Count me on on helping with James’s education. Seriously!!!

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