Chart: One Year of Prison Costs More Than One Year at Princeton

By Brian Resnick

One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000. 


Prison and college "are the two most divergent paths one can take in life," Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion's share of government funding goes toward incarceration.

The comparison between higher education spending and correction spending highlighted in the following chart is not perfect. Universities have means to fund themselves; prisons rely on the government. So it makes some sense that a disproportional amount of money flows to the correction centers. Also, take note, comparing African Americans in college and African Americans in dorms is not completely fair. For one, college implies an 18-22 age range, and incarcerated adults can be of any age. Also, it doesn't take into account African Americans who commute to school. 

Despite these shortcomings, this chart helps illustrate a large discrepancy in this country: America has the highest incarceration rate by population, but is only 6th in the world when it comes to college degrees. Our government's spending reflects that fact accordingly.

Prison vs Princeton
Created by: Public Administration

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/chart-one-year-of-prison-costs-more-than-one-year-at-princeton/247629/