WASHINGTON – The United States’ spending on its state-level and local prisons has grown three times greater than the country’s expenditure on schools during the last 33 years, an Education Department report revealed.

Releasing the shocking report, US Secretary of Education John King said that the figures mentioned in the report were enough to push the state and local governments to reassess their spending priorities. Governments need to direct more money towards education sector, he urged.

He went on to say that a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates could result in 9 percent decline in criminal arrest rates.

The report said that state and local governments were spending $258 billion on elementary and secondary education in 1979 which grew by 107 percent to $534 billion in 2012.

However, during the same duration, the spending on prisons increased by 324 percent to $71 billion from $17 billion.

Meanwhile, the number prisoners in US jails surged at a rate of 400 percent to 2.1 million from around 467,000 between 2012 and 1979 , which is seven times the growth rate of the US population overall.

It was also noted that seven US states – Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia – increased their spending on prisons five times as compared to their KG to grade 12 education spending.

Only two states – New Hampshire and Massachusetts – increased their prison expenditure at a lower rate compared to education spending.

The United States is currently spending about $80 billion annually on maintenance of prisons while every third American of working age has a criminal record.