A recent national study finds that Connecticut is one of just four states that spend a greater proportion of their General Fund budgets on corrections than they invest in higher education. For every $1.00 of the General Fund budget that was spent on higher education in Fiscal Year 2007, Connecticut spent $1.03 on corrections. This has not always been the case according to CT Voices’ new issue brief. Twenty years ago (in FY 87), Connecticut spent only 35 cents on corrections for each $1.00 spent on higher education. Connecticut’s incarceration rate now exceeds all other New England states, as well as 25 of the 26 European countries with the largest inmate populations. Further, while the population in Connecticut’s state-run prisons grew by 61% between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time equivalent students attending its public college and universities grew by just 26%.
Spending on our corrections system is largely reactive and represents an approach to state governance that unfortunately is endemic across multiple systems of Connecticut’s state government. Rather than planning proactively and investing adequately in the programs and services that promote good outcomes for children and youth through education, prevention programs, higher education opportunities and family supports, Connecticut instead pays at the “back end” to incarcerate and attempt to rehabilitate its residents.