Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

The Impact of Career and Technical Education Programs on Adult Offenders: Learning Behind Bars

Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

The Impact of Career and Technical Education Programs on Adult Offenders: Learning Behind Bars

Article excerpt

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to examine recidivism rates of inmates who participated in educational programs during the time they were incarcerated at Huttonsville Correctional Center in West Virginia. The Education Department at Huttonsville Correctional Center provided files pertaining to inmates who were enrolled in educational programs during 1999-2000. Vocational completers had a recidivism rate of 8.75%, inmates who participated in both GED and vocational training reported a recidivism of 6.71%, and non-educational participants had a recidivism rate of 26%. GED and vocational training programs had a positive effect on reducing recidivism. Overall, participation of the incarcerated in correctional education programs appears to reduce recidivism. Education is a change agent. Incarceration is meant to change attitudes. The combination of career and technical education along with incarceration for the qualified inmate may help to increase the safety of society when the offender is released. West Virginia Department of Corrections should provide adequate funding and ensure the quality of education throughout both the prison system and the community correction system to further develop social, cultural, academic and vocational learning.

Providing all individuals with educational services has been a fundamental value in American society. Discipline and education may be regarded as the mainstay of prison programs for inmates since the early years of our penal history. However, providing inmates with an education has been a controversial issue and represents a difficult dilemma to tax-paying citizens. There are many conflicting opinions regarding whether society should strive to rehabilitate rather than merely punish inmates. Yet, when society carefully considers the average cost to provide quality education against the cost of keeping an inmate adequately housed for additional years in a state or federal institution, the question becomes, "How can we afford not to educate?" (Weldon, 2002, p. 7). The concept of rehabilitation has been rooted in the notion that if adequate rehabilitative services are provided, the number of repeat offenders will decrease. During the 1980s, the number of men and women incarcerated in prisons and jails more than doubled (Halasz, 1993). According to the literature, the numbers continue to increase rapidly at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This growth has caused tremendous problems, including overcrowding and lack of space to house inmates and programs, lack of resources, lack of trained personnel, and a lack of programs for inmates. In response, new prisons and jails are being built in almost every state, requiring the recruitment and hiring of thousands of personnel and the inception of hundreds of educational and other programs for inmates.

Education is one of six programs and services offered in one form or another by most correctional institutions. These programs and services, including mental health, medical treatment, religion, recreation, and self help, offer inmates opportunities to change their own attitudes and behavior, but do not guarantee that they will become law-building citizens upon release (Halasz, 1993). Of these programs and services, career and technical education programs have the longest tradition and are considered by many correctional experts to have the most potential for positive results (Snarr & Wolford, 1985).

Statement of the Problem

The primary purpose of this study was to examine the recidivism rates of inmates who participated in educational programs during the time they were incarcerated at Huttonsviile Correctional Center in West Virginia. West Virginia is one of nine states which failed to report its recidivism rate yearly. The 1998 Corrections Yearbook indicates that the West Virginia Division of Corrections data system is not capable of properly measuring recidivism.

Recidivism was operationally defined as "a return to state custody, after having been released for a new felony conviction" (Weldon, 2002, p. …

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