Reducing recidivism and changing lives

Studies have found that over 700,000 inmates are released from prisons in a single year. Unfortunately, about 40% of those released will be reincarcerated within three years. What does it cost to keep one prisoner? Thomas Snow, executive director of Tennessee Prison Outreach Ministry, estimates it’s around $29,000 per prisoner per year. It’s also been reported that the jail budget for Shelby County is nearly $140 million. Research has shown that one way to improve an inmate’s chances after release is to provide them with an education while they’re in the system. Here are three studies that back up the efficacy of correctional education programs.

“Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education” from the RAND Corporation

There is research to prove that educating prisoners improves their outcomes after their release. One of the biggest improvements that comes from education, is a decrease in recidivism. According to research from the RAND Corporation, inmates who participated in a correctional education program during their sentences decrease their chances of returning to prison by 13%. In addition to the decrease in recidivism, researchers also found that it might be easier for inmates to get a job after they are released. The odds of getting a job for those that participated in an education program were 13% higher than those that did not.

“Does providing inmates with education improve postrelease outcomes?” from the Journal of Experimental Criminology

This research found that inmates who participated in an education program while they were incarcerated were 28% less likely to recidivate when comparing them to those who did not participate. Interestingly, the study also found that the chances of finding employment after release were the same for both groups. However, the conclusion of the study noted that if the end goal is to decrease recidivism rates, there is research that backs up the value of participating in correctional education during sentences.

“The Impact of College in Prison as Understood by Formerly Incarcerated Students from the Northeastern United States” from the Journal of Prison Education and Reentry

What makes this study different from the previous two is that it uses in-depth interviews to reach its conclusions. Instead of basing conclusions on facts and numbers, these researchers wanted the first-hand experiences and opinions of formerly incarcerated individuals who were able to participate in college-level education. One of the top findings of this study was that those who participated in college-level education were better able to re-imagine what their future looked like and had increased self-confidence.

Starting this year, incarcerated people are going to be able to receive federal Pell grants – something they haven’t been able to since the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed in 1994. Through reviewing research, it’s possible to see what great value can come from prison education programs. Part of our mission at Hope2Hire is to give people in our community a second chance in life, and providing education is one of the ways we help. Education is a powerful tool for everyone.

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