Last fall I attended an awards and recognition banquet at a juvenile detention facility in Eugene. Attendees included elected officials, professional workers, therapists, church groups and citizen volunteers.

One of the professionals when it was her time to speak advised the audience that there was a direct correlation between television use and unwanted teenage pregnancy. More specifically she noted that pre-school age children with televisions in their bedrooms were statistically more likely to experience teenage pregnancy.

How this correlation was determined I don’t know but murmurs of shock and dismay reverberated around the room. The speaker ended by encouraging everyone to lobby our state legislators to demand that in Oregon warning labels are placed on all new televisions sold.

“Warning: Watching this electronic device may cause unwanted pregnancy!” (I made that up)

All kidding aside I mentioned this because it illustrates the type of knee jerk reaction we sometimes have to the many problems plaguing our society. This is particularly noticeable in Oregon’s handling of law breakers. Instead of focusing on prevention using proven tools like education Oregon is considering mandatory minimum sentencing for non violent crimes.

Oregon already spends the largest percentage of its general fund on corrections than any state in the Union besides Michigan. Despite this investment in corrections, Oregon projects a 13% increase in prison population by 2011, more than triple the expected rise of the general population.

“Warning: Living in Oregon may cause unwanted incarceration.”

Knee jerk legislation aimed at being tough on crime while sacrificing education has not paid off with lower crime rates in Oregon. Consider that for every dollar spent on education in Minnesota only $.17 is spent on corrections compared to $1.06 in Oregon yet Minnesota has a lower crime rate per capita.

Eliminating judicial discretion from sentencing is being proposed to combat crime in Oregon and will contribute to the increased prison population. While it does not lower our crime rates Oregon prefers to invest more on prisoners than school children.

Study after study show the tax investment benefits of education. Societal gains include increased tax revenue and less dependence upon welfare. Overall, education leads to higher earnings, greater productivity, reduced crime rates and fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Why isn’t Oregon investing in preventive crime measures like education? Why do we choose to spend only a $1 on our school age children now just to spend a $1.06 on them later?

“Warning: Living in Oregon may be hazardous to your education.”