In addition to the barbarism that is our penitentiary system eating away at the basic principles on which we founded our society, our obsession with locking away people for violating arbitrary rules is destroying our human capital. We’re literally choosing locking up drug offenders over investing in our children. That’s madness and it has to stop.Of course, the author is talking about the state of California (which has been very explicit about making this decision). At some point I think we need to get over our fetish for incarceration. The same article points out that the 1980's had a quarter of the rate of incarceration that we do today (comparable to a high crime European country, like Poland). It is hard to decide what is a reasonable target for absolute rates, but going back to the levels of the early 1980's (and the top levels in Europe today) seems like a reasonable goal.
How we get there is unclear, but it seems like a priority for those of use who argue about education reform. After all, a huge drop in prison costs (in addition to reducing human suffering) would free up funds to rehabilitate the school system. It is challenging to increase quality while reducing funding. But increasing available resources can only help (either directly by changing allocations inside state budgets or indirectly by reducing tax rates).