Thursday, April 16, 2009

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

The House Ways & Means Committee released its budget today.  If you live in Dorchester, Mattpan, Roxbury, or another community that is touched by violence, brace yourself.

In 2003, when funding for youth jobs in Boston was cut in half, the number of homicides in the next two years nearly doubled, going from 39 to 75 in just two years.   The proposed House Budget not only cuts the Youth Works Public Sector Teen Jobs funding from $9 million to $0, but it also cuts the following:
  • The Department of Public Health Youth Violence Prevention Program (Line Item # 4590-1506) funding was cut from $3.5 million to $0.  
  • The Shannon Anti-Gang Violence Grant (Line Item # 8100-0111) was cut from $13 million to 0$. 
Interestingly, I also received an email today that the budget for CPCS was level funded.  I am not complaining, because indigent defendants need quality legal representation, but I have to say that I find it odd that as a society we have plenty of money to spend on lawyers for young people after they get arrested, have a criminal record, and pretty much become unemployable, but we don't have money to spend that will help them avoid gangs, find work and lead healthy lives.  

I also noticed that the budget for the Department of Correction is over $527 million, and that the amount allocated for reentry programs, which evidence coming out of Harvard, Northeastern, and every other credible institution that has researched the subject shows are cheaper and more effective than prison, is less than $1 million dollars.  

Let me repeat that: In spite of the fact that every shred of research coming out of the foremost institutions in the world, which also happen to be in our state, indicates that recidivism and prevention spending are more effective and cheaper than prison spending, our Department of Corrections budget section allocates 500 times more for prisons than it does for reentry. 

This is just insane.  It makes no budget sense, common sense or any other sense.  There really is no explanation for ignoring all of the data and wasting money like this.  It's almost like we actually enjoy wasting taxpayer money in this state.

Luckily, the budget process is far from over.  Please call your state representatives and tell them to restore funding for these line items, and to include more funding for reentry.  Please also call your senators and ask them to include these items in the senate version of the bill.  

When they tell you that times are tough and there is no money for these things, reply by telling them that prisons cost four times more than prevention, and that evidence from Harvard and Northeastern proves that what you are asking will actually save money for more important things.  

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