Education, Technology and Reentry

By Rogers, Donna | Corrections Forum, September/October 2015 | Go to article overview

Education, Technology and Reentry


Rogers, Donna, Corrections Forum


THE LONG LAZY DAYS of summer have come to a close. As the September days grow shorter and nights grow cooler, many students return to their studies, and by October most have delved deeply into their new curriculums. Some corrections departments have also seen the benefits of education-and this fall inmates are no exception in their quest for knowledge.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is backing them up with a new study called Educational Technology in Corrections, 2015 published in June that emphasizes the benefits of advanced technology for inmates and reports the availability of it for those incarcerated- which remains low. In addition, it highlights a few examples where technology is a successful part of the corrections experience.

At the same time, more corrections agencies are conducting research into how academic and vocational training have impacted recidivism. As you will see below, they are beginning to dip their toes into some innovative vocational reentry programs.

First, however, let's begin with the report from the ED. It cited the 2014 RAND Corporation study (sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance) that found that incarcerated individuals who received general education and vocational training were significantly less likely to return to prison after release and more likely to find employment than their peers who not did not receive such opportunities.

The RAND Report found that corrections education has a significant impact on post-release recidivism. It found that, "on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not.... This translates into a reduction in the risk of recidivating of 13 percentage points for those who participate in correctional education programs versus those who do not."

Education was also shown to improve inmates' chances of obtaining employment after release, and employment has been shown to have a positive tional impact on recidivism rates. The odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in either academic or vocational correctional education was 13 percent higher than the odds for those who did not participate. In addition, it was found that "those who participated in vocational training were 28 percent more likely to be employed after release from prison than those who did not receive such training."

RAND researchers concluded that prison education programs were cost-effective. But the study also documented a cautionary tale within the good news: access to education in correctional institutions was limited, and significant knowledge gaps existed regarding the nuances of educational program effectiveness in the correctional context.

INMATES 'LEFT BEHIND' IN USE OF TECHNOLOGY

The National Education Technology Plan, developed in 2010 by the ED, underscores the necessity of advanced technologies to support all student learning. Yet, it reports: "As states, districts, higher education institutions, and other education providers implement these plans, education programs in correctional facilities are being left behind." It states: "For example, according to a 2013 survey of state correctional education directors, although most states offer students limited use of computers in their prisons, less than half reported that one or more of their prisons provided students with off-line access to Internet content and even fewer allowed restricted Internet access (Davis et al. 2014)."

OBJECTIONS TO TECHNOLOGY

The report notes that the primary concern about adopting educational technology in corrections is the potential for security breaches, though the lack of funding to purchase, implement and maintain equipment is another reason that hinders its use.

While the objections are well founded, the report goes on to outline numerous case examples of departments that have found a way to overcome the concerns. It includes a section on how the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in 2005 implemented a policy to allow restricted Internet access, and an appendix contains the policy for others to consider. …

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