Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Corrections and Education: The Relationship between Education and Recidivism

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Corrections and Education: The Relationship between Education and Recidivism

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past 20 years, there has been an explosive growth in the number of adults incarcerated in local, state, and federal correctional institutions. The incarceration rates in the United States increased 700% between 1970 and 2005, and were predicted to climb an additional 13% by 2007 (The Sentencing Project, 2006). According to Sum, Khatiwada, McLaughlin, & Palma (2009), from 2006-2007 it is estimated that nearly 1.4% of the nation's 16-24 year olds (men and women) were institutionalized, of whom nearly 93% were residing in correctional facilities; approximately 90% of the inmates were males. Additionally, institutionalization rates were considerably higher among young African American men than any other racial group.

According to the Bureau of Prisons (2007), it is estimated that the number of African Americans in prison totaled 1.5 million individuals and of that number, African American males made up 70% of the prison population (Nealy, 2008). Consequently, incarceration rates were highest among high school dropouts, wherein approximately 23 of every 100 young African American male adults were institutionalized versus only 6 to 7 of every 100 Asians, Hispanics, and Whites (Sum et al., 2009). In addition, it is estimated that more than 630,000 prisoners - about 1,700 per day - are released from State and Federal prisons per year (Winterfield, Coggeshell, Burke-Storer, Correa & Tidd, 2009). However, if past trends continue, just over half of them will be reincarcerated within 3 years (Winterfield, et al., 2009). This pattern of reincarceration, which is indicative of poor reintegration of prisoners into the community, is linked to a variety of issues related to low levels of education and vocational skill prior to and upon release from prison (Solomon, Visher, Lavigne, & Osborne, 2006). Accordingly, as the incarceration rates continue to grow so has the interest of practitioners, policy makers, and researchers in developing a better understanding of the reentry process for offenders.

Literature Review

Ninety-five percent of American prisoners will eventually be released back into society and will either continue their past criminal behaviors or adopt new, socially acceptable lifestyles (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). Although the basic methods to support prisoner reentry are not new, the concentration on specific well-coordinated reentry initiatives have increased over the years (Taxman, 2002). One major initiative for reentry success has focused on increasing correctional educational opportunities as a means of assisting offenders in finding gainful employment post release and ending their participation in the criminal justice system (Winterfield, et al., 2009).

Correctional education in the United States spans over 200 years and is primarily centralized on the principle of behavior change (Messemer & Valentine, 2004). Correctional education developed in parallel with higher education with the enactment of Higher Education Act of 1965, but was ultimately downgraded with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibited prison inmates from receiving Pell Grants during incarceration (Wright, 2001). The Violent Crime Control Act of 1994 left many states with limited educational opportunities of attempting to find alternative funding sources to support the educational rehabilitation aspect of the prison system (Edwards-Willey & Chivers, 2005). Consequently, in 1998, Congress reestablished funding for correctional postsecondary education under the Incarcerated Youthful Offender (IYO) block grant initiative. The Incarcerated Youthful Offender program was designed to provide postsecondary education and vocational training to inmates under the age of 25 who qualified for release or parole within five years, (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). The IYO funds represent one of the most commonly reported sources of funding for prison-based Post-Secondary Education (83% of responding states), followed by prisoner self-funding (56%) and state appropriations (47%) (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). …

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