Vincent Orange

LL doesn’t normally play fact-check police, but he has to step in now that the mayoral field is falling for a common myth about prisons. And no, it’s not the one about how to make pruno.

Illustrating the connection between crime and a lackluster education, at-large councilmember and mayoral hopeful Vincent Orange has claimed repeatedly at candidate forums that prison systems decide how many prisons they need to build based on third-grade reading scores. It’s a line Orange has been using since at least 2012, and it’s apparently so good that Orange rival Andy Shallal has started using it, too.

At a January fundraiser featuring “Puff the Magic Dragon” songwriter Peter Yarrow, Shallal sounded a lot like Orange.

“They’re starting to do studies now on third-graders to see how they’re doing in school because that determines how many prisons they can build later on,” Shallal told his would-be donors.

Both Shallal and Orange will need new bon mots, though, because there’s no evidence that correctional departments plan their prison-construction schedule based on elementary school reading scores. It’s a silly idea on its face—-prisons don’t take such a long time to build that they have to be built with a 10-year lead time—-but it’s one that’s popular with politicians across the country. Despite attempts by The Atlantic, PolitiFact, the Washington Post, Factcheck.org, and The Oregonian, though, no one has ever been able to find a prison system that actually bases prison plans on elementary school reading rates.

Orange sent LL some articles that he bases his claim on, some of which were already disproved in the articles above. One, from the Nevada Department of Corrections, claims that California bases its prison plans on reading progress. But California Department of Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison tells LL that Nevada and Orange are all wrong.

“It is untrue—-and so obviously untrue I find it hard to understand why some people continue to believe it,”  Chua writes in an email.

That’s easy to understand, whatever your reading skills.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery