Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons

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College Education in Prison


College education in prison benefits the students who take classes as well as correctional officers, corrections systems, family members of those who are in prison, communities/neighborhoods hardest hit by mass incarceration, and tax payers.

  • Higher education programs improve prison environments, translating into fewer disciplinary infractions and a safer workplace for corrections officers[1]
  • A RAND meta-analysis found that people in prison who participated in structured education while incarcerated were 43% less likely to recidivate than those who did not[2]
  • Research shows that an investment in education for incarcerated people saves money:
  • For every $962 spent on academic education in prisons, taxpayer’s costs for criminal justice are reduced by $5,306[3]
  • Effective correctional education in prisons saves taxpayer dollars: $18,821 is saved for every person in prison who successfully completed prison education programming[4]
  • College Education increases people’e economic opportunities as educational attainment is the most important social characteristic predicting earnings:
    • Lifetime earnings increase for people with higher education over those with a HS diploma: 261K with some college; 442K with an AA degree; 1,051,000 with a BA degree
  • College Education in prison provides students with the opportunity to gain tools to prepare for their eventual release and contributes to the rehabilitative potential of a prison sentence

College education in prison produces positive outcomes system-wide: fewer victims of crime, less money in the long-term spent on incarceration, an increased tax-base generated by employable returning citizens, and safer, stronger communities at large.

[1] The Urban Institute’s 2009 report, “The Effects of Postsecondary Correctional Education.

[2] RAND Corporation’s 2013 Report, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education”

[3] Brazzell, et al., From the Classroom to the Community, p. 19.

[4]Aos, et al., Washington State Institute for Public Policy, July 2011.

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