Access to Education Creates Safety

Interacting with the police, being arrested, or spending time behind bars make it more difficult for a person to get a quality education and access to opportunity. If we care about improving opportunity—and public safety—through education, we must consider shrinking the criminal legal system itself.

Victor Hugo famously said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” In the U.S., education and opportunity go hand in hand. Access to quality education gives children opportunities to learn, discover their own potential, and also to better support themselves and their loved ones as adults. Being arrested or incarcerated robs people of this opportunity.  Being denied an education makes a person more likely to interact with the criminal legal system: if lack of opportunity is a driver of crime, then systematic theft of opportunity from low-income communities and communities of color constitutes a set of policy choices that substantially hamper our collective success. 

Improving access to education is a common—and, in many circles, largely uncontroversial—policy recommendation, but rarely is it a primary focus in the conversation around public safety and lowering crime. Crucially, expanding access to education will not just require increased availability of educational opportunities, but also the elimination of barriers to education like our current system of large-scale arrests and incarceration. 

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