Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

January 22, 2008 - California Aggie (CA Edu)

Column: The Prison Problem

By James Noonan

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

If you're anything like me and have spent your whole life in the great state of California, you've probably come to realize that personal space is at a premium. A state population of over 36 million people practically guarantees that everything from our freeways to our universities is drastically overcrowded.

Perhaps the best, and most frightening example of this obscene overpopulation is evident in the California State Prison system, which embraces a long history of overcrowding and over-funding.

In 2007, the state prison system was estimated to hold somewhere around 170,000 inmates, close to 70 percent higher than the system's maximum capacity of 100,000. Some facilities, such as Centennial State Prison, are filled to over 200 percent of their maximum capacity, creating an extremely hostile and dangerous environment for guards and inmates alike.

Numbers such as these seem even more ridiculous when you consider that over 20,000 of these inmates are serving sentences for nonviolent, drug-related crimes, and that the vast majority of such sentences came as a result of simply possessing illicit drugs, not from manufacturing or selling them.

However, in recent years, the state government's policy seems to consist of simply ignoring such absurd statistics and throwing billions of tax dollars at the problem, rather than examining why such a huge portion of the population remains incarcerated.

By now, some of you are probably reading this and wondering how prison overpopulation could possibly have a negative impact on your life. Most of you probably don't plan on going to prison any time soon, and therefore assume that you'll never see any of the adverse effects that this problem could cause.

However, the truth of matter is that we, as students at a public university, are quite possibly the people who are most affected by this problem. Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that $10 billion of the state's 2007-2008 budget was being allocated to the operation of the corrections system, and $12 billion being allocated toward higher education. The same article suggests that, if budget trends continue, correctional spending would overtake higher education in the next five years.

While these statistics alone should be enough to call into question the value our state puts on education, the situation becomes even worse when one considers that the $10 billion doesn't include the expenses of constructing new facilities, which will cost the state another $7 billion.

With the use of a little arithmetic, one can see that the state plans to spend $5 billion more on its prisons than it does its schools.

According to these numbers, one could claim that California cares more about maintaining the largest prison population in the country than it does about educating its young adult population.

Perhaps no one in the state government has stopped to think that providing an education to the young people of California would result in less people turning to a life of crime, and therefore serve to reduce the number of people going to prison.

Whatever the case may be, it's clear that California has its priorities and values all mixed up, and that the already debt-ridden college students will be the ones who end up paying the price.

James Noonan is tired of having his education marginalized by the state government. All those who feel the same way are welcome to contact him at

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact