Correctional Education and Recidivism: Toward a Tool for Reduction

By Hall, Lori L. | Journal of Correctional Education, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Correctional Education and Recidivism: Toward a Tool for Reduction


Hall, Lori L., Journal of Correctional Education


Abstract

Vast arrays of research have evaluated recidivism through a limited scope, analyzing various factors independently. This study endeavors to execute a systematic review of factors attributed to recidivism in order to focus the research trajectory toward the most promising recidivism reduction tool. Various risk factors of recidivism have been identified; however few can be utilized as a tool in reduction. Of those tools, research indicates that correctional education programming appears to offer the greatest reduction outcome. The importance of this research is established by reorganizing the major research findings on correctional education programs from 1995 to 2010 in order to show the impact of education on recidivism. To accomplish this goal, a typology of the research is created to delineate the factor that is most promising in reducing recidivism, correctional education. Specifically, an analysis of 10 empirical studies is performed in order to understand the impact of correctional education programming on recidivism. Findings reveal conclusiveness about educational programming as a reduction tool for recidivism.

Introduction

The incarceration rates in America far exceed all other industrialized nations, with over two million inmates currently incarcerated (Brazell, Crayton, Mukamal, Solomon, & Lindahl, 2009; Vacca, 2004). Approximately, 95% of those inmates will be released yearly (Brazell et al., 2009). Overcrowding has become a major issue for correctional facilities and has created major problems for the criminal justice system and our nation (Petersilia, 2003). Further, research states that one in every one hundred persons in the United States is currently incarcerated (Brazell et al., 2009). Major studies (Batiuk, Lahm, McKeever, Wilcox, a Wilcox, 2005; Vacca, 2004; Gordon a Weldon, 2003; Steurer, Smith, a Tracy, 2001 ; Hull, Forrester, Brown, Jobe, a McCullen, 2000; Stevens a Ward, 1997) have been conducted that work toward relieving the problem of overcrowding by looking at effective correctional programming, which reduces the likeliness for inmates to return to prison. These studies have all unanimously concluded that correctional education, particularly college or academic, has a negative correlation with recidivism (Steurer, Linton, Nally, a Lockwood, 2010; Brazell et al., 2009; Batiuk et al., 2005; Vacca, 2004; Gordon a Weldon, 2003; Steurer et al., 2001 ; Hull et al., 2000; Stevens a Ward, 1997).

Incarceration in America is a growing problem. As can be seen in Figure 1, prison populations, namely state and federal institutions, increased 55% from 1995 to 2010. It is this growing population of inmates that creates the need for programming that closes the revolving door of correctional institutions in America. The most recent recidivism study conducted in 1994 by the Department of Justice reports a national recidivism rate of 68% (Langan & Levin, 2002). This rate applies to prior offenders who were rearrested at three years post-release (Langan & Levin, 2002).

A general consensus among scholars suggests that correctional education plays a major role in the rehabilitation of inmates (Steurer et al., 2001 ; Hull et al., 2000; Batiuk et al., 2005; Vacca, 2004). There are various kinds of correctional programs aimed at providing rehabilitation to inmates (Steurer et al., 2010).

Many researchers have discovered that correctional education often involves various programs, meaning that the variations of educational level among inmates has developed a need for many programs that serve the prospective inmates (Steurer et al., 2010). According to Steurer et al. (2010), education has three goals-to provide security, safety, and rehabilitation-and these goals are "the entire range of correctional services." It is this similarity of goals that offers the most hope for the rehabilitation of inmates. The goals comparison, as stated by Steurer et al. (2010), work toward keeping society protected from offenders, insuring the security of institutions and aimed at creating functioning and productive members of society. …

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