Prison education programs are a highly debated issue–some believe that they are ultimately beneficial to society, while others consider them to be a waste of money. However, new studies have shown that prison education programs reduce the likelihood of recommitting crimes and re-incarceration. What are some of the education options available to prisoners? How does it vary from state to state?
Educated prisoners are less likely to recommit crimes
About half of criminals released from prison end up returning to incarceration within three years. This statistic is shocking, and it has encouraged many to re-think America’s prison system. In response to this inquiry, many experts suggest that education is the key to criminal rehabilitation.
This past August, a study concluded that prisoners who engaged in prison education programs were 43% less likely to return to criminal behavior and recommit crimes than their counterparts who do not. Why is this so? Some believe that prison education programs provide prisoners with a sense of purpose, increasing their self esteem and confidence. Not to mention, incarcerated populations that further their education behind bars are much more likely to find employment post release, and there is no need to revert to criminal activity.
Prison education programs reduce Government spending
The cost for prison education programs does not come cheap, costing a whopping $1500 per prisoner on average. However, many prison education groups insist that investing in these types of programs will cut spending in the end as less ex-prisoners revert to crime. When the cost for re-incarceration is almost $10,000 per inmate, its seems as though prison education programs are money well spent.
What education options to prisoners have?
- GED program. Inmates that did not complete high school can seek to obtain a GED certificate. It generally consists of 240 hours of literacy and general education classes.
- English as a second language. English classes are available to prisoners who do not speak English. Also, in order to further continue with their education behind bars, a non-English speaker must first complete English as a second language classes.
- Library Services. Prisons have libraries that provide inmates the opportunity to read fiction and non-fiction books. In addition, prison libraries give inmates the opportunity to learn about law through the many legal resources available.
- Vocational education. Vocational certificates are the most common type of higher education achieved through prison education programs. They provide students with real-world skills for employment upon release.
- Parenting classes. Many prisoners have families in the outside world. Parenting and classes provide prisoners with information on family relationships and counseling on how to rekindle relationships with family members.
- College credit. Though it varies from state-to-state, some prisons provide prisoners with the option of taking college courses. However, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act made it so that prisoners did not qualify for Pell Grants to pay for education costs. Therefore, most of the time, it is up to the prisoner to pay for much of the tuition costs. Some private colleges offer free classes to nearby prisons, but this applies to only a very small percentage.
Kristen writes for Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, a criminal defense law firm based in the capital city of Texas, Austin. Kristen thinks prison education programs sound like a good idea.