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A Worthy Cause

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Whether you look at ROI, social impact or personal impact, the benefits of college classes in prison can't be denied.

In addition to providing the returning incarcerated student with fresh hopes, new tools, and a positive attitude to funtion productively in society, prisoner education has real economic benefits as discussed below. 

The Benefits of Correctional Education

Dollar Value of Education

 

  • "Simply attending school behind bars reduces the likelihood of re-incarceration by 23%. Translated into savings, every dollar spent on education returns more than two dollars to the citizens in reduced prison costs."
  • The study examining the return on public investment in vocational and educational programs in Florida prisons concluded that those who completed certain educational programs produced a return of $3.53 per $1.00 invested. 
  • "A Rand study concluded that education is the most cost-effective crime prevention program available..." 

Recidivism Rates

 

 

  • A psychiatrist who directed the Massachusetts Prison Mental Health Service reports that:
    “the most successful of all [anti-recidivism programs], and the only one that had been 100 percent effective in preventing recidivism, was the program that allowed inmates to receive a college degree while in prison. Several hundred prisoners in Massachusetts had completed at least a bachelor's degree while in prison over a 25-year period, and not one of them had been returned to prison for a new crime.” Gillian
  • Recidivism rates within three years of release of 55% for the state's [California] general prison population and 0% for those who had completed a baccalaureate degree in prison. Chase & Dickover
  • Compare the recidivism rates in Table 1 of inmates generally with inmates who received prison college degrees: 
     
    State Generally With Degree
    Alabama 35% 1%
    Maryland 46% 0%
    New York 45% 26%
    Texas 36% 10%

 

 

 

  • A study of a Canadian prison college program produced a recidivism rate of 14% compared to 52% of the matched group of non-student prisoners. Another study showed that inmates at the New Mexico State Penitentiary who took college courses had an average recidivism rate of 15.5% compared to 68% of the entire inmate population.
  • A City University of New York research study found that 7.7% of women inmates at New York State's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility who took prison education courses returned to jail, compared to 29.9% of those who did not.
  • A study of Texas inmates found that prison college program graduates had less than a 15% re-arrest rate, compared to a general Texas re-arrest rate of 60%.
  • A similar finding is reported in A. Marks, When Inmates Push to Restore Educational Funds for Prisoners. 
  • It was reported that inmates who actively participate in education programs have significantly lower likelihoods of recidivating.
  • The more educational programs successfully completed for each six months confined, the lower the recidivism rate.
  • Compare an overall recidivism rate of 40% for Ohio inmates with 18% for those who completed the Associate Degree program.