This Is How Much the US Spends on Imprisoning vs. Educating People, in One Startling GIF

Zeeshan Aleem
January 30, 2015

Hardly a day goes by without a member of the media or policy world pronouncing that America's education system is in dire straits.

There are constant laments over how poorly the U.S. fares by international standards, its failure to produce literate students and its unsightly levels of racial segregation. There's a massive debate over how to overcome these problems, but there's no doubt that at least one factor would help: more money. 

But where would the money come from? America's broken and bloated prison system might be a good start.

Keeping someone alive in prison is expensive — much more so than educating them. The GIF below uses data from the Vera Institute of Justice's 2012 "Price of Prisons" report and 2012 U.S. Census data on public school costs. (Several states did not complete the survey, and thus are missing from this chart.) You can see that average resources devoted to prisoners annually easily outpace resources for students:

imprisonment gif

Read more on the costly effects of imprisonment.