Most famous for the WB court television hit the “Judge Mathis Show,” Judge Greg Mathis is now gaining publicity through his article published on BlackNews.com titled “Spend Now to Educate Prisoners, Save Later.”
In the article, Mathis argues that prisoners should receive a college education to reduce their likelihood of returning to prison once released. Opponents of Mathis’ opinion feel that prison should be used as a form of punishment, therefore prisoners should not receive free education while law-abiding citizens work to pay for their degrees.
Currently, only 5 percent of inmates in the United States are enrolled in college courses.
”This number is much too low,” Mathis said. “Higher education or vocational training should be mandatory-When education is made part of a comprehensive prisoner re-entry program that includes substance abuse counseling and psychiatric evaluation, society at large reaps the benefits of reduced crime rates, stronger communities and lowered tax burdens.”
Mathis went on to note the possibility of prison reducing one’s income up to 15 percent due to lack of skills and job training. He believes that frustrations caused by fewer employment opportunities leads ex-offenders back to a life of crime.
”By arming ex-offenders with the skills necessary to succeed, this cycle could be stopped before it has a chance to begin,” he said. “In a society where a college degree or some trade is necessary to earn a living wage, we are setting ex-offenders up to fail by releasing them back into society without any marketable skills. Making sure society – all of society – has access to higher education and skills training should be a top priority for our government.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, tax payers pay $30 billion a year to build new prisons and keep old prisons running. With over 2 million Americans incarcerated and more than half of ex-prisoners returning to jail within 3 years of their release, Mathis asserts that it would be more economically efficient to spend $5-$10,000 per inmate on their education than to keep them imprisoned.
”By reducing recidivism (the return to prison by ex-offenders), the prison population would be reduced and prison spending could be drastically cut,” Mathis said. “The tax money that is saved could then be earmarked for other social programs.”
As the chairman of the Rainbow PUSH-Excel Board and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Mathis urges people of color to become advocates for increased funding to prisoner education programs.
”As a community we must ensure that our incarcerated men, women and children are returned to us ready and able to contribute,” he said.