Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison

Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison

Article excerpt


Since 1990, the literature has shown that prisoners who attend educational programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where inmates have received an appropriate education. Furthermore, the right kind of educational program leads to less violence by inmates involved in the programs and a more positive prison environment. Effective Education Programs are those that help prisoners with their social skills, artistic development and techniques and strategies to help them deal with their emotions. In addition, these programs emphasize academic, vocational and social education. The inmates who participate in these programs do so because they see clear opportunities to improve their capabilities for employment after being released. Program success or failure is hampered, however, by the values and attitudes of those in the authority position, over crowded prison population conditions and inadequate funding for teaching personnel, supplies and materials. In addition, recent studies show that most inmates are males who have little or no employable skills. They are also frequently school dropouts who have difficulties with reading and writing skills and poor self-concepts and negative attitudes toward education. Literacy skills in learner-centered programs with meaningful contexts that recognize the different learning styles, cultural backgrounds and learning needs of inmates are important to program success and inmate participation. Inmates need education programs that not only teach them to read effectively but also provide them with the necessary reinforcement that promote a positive transition to society when they are released. Efforts in this direction would help stimulate better participation of inmates in all prison education programs and will go a long way to help the prisoner rehabilitation process.

Prisoners who attend education programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Since 1990, literature examining the return rates of prisoners, or recidivism, has shown that educated prisoners are less likely to find themselves back in prison a second time if they complete an educational program and are taught skills to successfully read and write. The "right kind" of education works to both lower recidivism and reduce the level of violence. Moreover, appropriate education leads to a more humane and more tolerable prison environment in which to live and work, not only for the inmates but also for the officers, staff and everyone else (Newman et al. 1993).

In 1991 Clark investigated the success of inmates enrolled in twenty-one prison college level education programs. This study generated data that answered the question whether completing a college degree during a period of prison incarceration reduced the likelihood that participants would return to prison following their release. Clark found that inmates who earned a diploma returned to prison custody at a significantly lower rate (26.4%) than those inmates who did not earn a degree (44.6%).

dark's findings were similar to those findings reported by Alien in 1988 at the University of Oklahoma. This study showed that 25 % of the inmates who received vocational training in prison returned to prison following their release. This was compared to a 77 % recidivism rate for the general population in the state of Oklahoma. Both the Clark and Alien studies suggest that working toward and earning a degree while in prison is positively related to the success that inmates experience when they are released to society.

Furthermore, the literature shows that in Ohio, while the overall recidivism rate was 40 percent, the recidivism rate for inmates enrolled in the college program was 18 percent. In addition, Ohio statistics show that inmates graduating from the college program reduced the rate of recidivism by 72 percent when compared with inmates not participating in any education program (Batiuk, 1997). …

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