How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation

How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation

How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation

How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation

Synopsis

This report assesses the effectiveness of correctional education programs for both incarcerated adults and juveniles and the cost-effectiveness of adult correctional education. It also provides results of a survey of U.S. state correctional education directors that give an up-to-date picture of what correctional education looks like today. Finally, the authors offer recommendations for improving the field of correctional education moving forward.

Excerpt

Each year, thousands of incarcerated individuals leave the nation’s prisons and jails and return to their families and communities. While many successfully reintegrate into their communities, find jobs, and become productive members of society, others may commit new crimes and return to jail or prison. For juveniles involved in the juvenile justice system, the rate of youth incarceration in the United States is more than three times the highest rates in other developed nations. Although many factors account for why some formerly incarcerated adults and youth succeed and some don’t, lack of education and skills is one key reason. This is why correctional education programs—both academic and vocational—are provided in correctional facilities across the nation. But do such correctional education programs actually work? We care about the answer because we want ex-prisoners to successfully reenter communities and because we have a responsibility to use taxpayer dollars judiciously to support programs that are backed by evidence of their effectiveness—especially during difficult budgetary times like these. Across this Administration, we are committed to investing in evidence-based programming, investigating promising practices, and making science a priority.

Fortunately, the passage of the Second Chance Act of 2007 gave us a chance to get at this fundamental question because it included a specific provision to improve education in U.S. prisons and jails. the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance within the U.S. Department of Justice, with input from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, competitively awarded a project to the rand Corporation in 2010 to comprehensively examine the current state of correctional education for incarcerated adults and juveniles, current and emerging trends in the field, and what can be done to improve the field moving forward. the study conducted a meta-analysis and systematic review to measure the effectiveness of correctional education for incarcerated adults and juveniles, respectively, and a survey of states’ correctional education directors to understand concerns and emerging trends.

The results of the meta-analysis are truly encouraging. Confirming the results of previous meta-analyses—while using more (and more recent) studies and an even more rigorous approach to selecting and evaluating them than in the past—the study shows that correctional education for incarcerated adults reduces the risk of postrelease reincarceration (by 13 percentage points) and does so cost-effectively (a savings of five dollars on reincarceration costs for every dollar spent on correctional education). and when it comes to postrelease employment for adults—another outcome key to successful reentry—researchers find that correctional education may increase such employment.

Because juvenile offenders have a right to a public education, all programs for incarcerated youth include a correctional education component. As such, effectiveness here has to focus on describing the balance of evidence favoring the types of interventions examined. Interventions, methods, and outcomes of interest varied a great deal across the systematic evaluation, with studies ultimately falling into six categories: Corrective Reading (a packaged intervention); computer-assisted instruction (comprising three other packaged reading interventions) . . .

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