In the Key of Whaaaaaa?

I've been in appropriations for hours and I'm a bit wiped out right now.

But, I could not go any further without telling you this story.

In our House Appropriations meeting today we heard from Department of Corrections and Department of Education. Bear in mind the following:

1) We are spending more on corrections than universities now.

2) Prison populations are higher than they have ever been.

3) There is a growing cadre of Republicans (even ALEC), who are calling for sentencing reform (those leftists scamps!) in order to save money and rescue people from a certain life of incarceration over (often) non-violent offenses.

4) Data shows that diversion programs work and save money.

After many questions from Democrats on the panel to Department of Corrections about why we are not spending more money on diversion, parole and re-introduction programs, rather than just buying more beds, one Republican jumped in to make the following point.

To paraphrase: in 1974, we had about 1,900 prisoners and a population of 2.2 million. Today, we have a prison population of about 41,000 and a population of about 6.6 million. He said they are virtually the same amount.

When I pointed out that his math was incorrect (2.2 million divided in to 1,900 is about .086% and 6.6 million in to 41,000 is about .62%) he said that it does not matter.

"How?", I asked after committee was over. "One number is seven times larger than the other. As a proportion of state population, the prison population is seven times as large as it was in 1974."

He said, "It is still under 1%. That's a small portion of the population."


That is akin to a doctor saying, "Sir, your cancer has grown by seven times, but it's okay since it is still less than 1% of your total body mass."