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The effects of Prison Education on Recidivism
Date: March 16, 2011 11:31PM

In this era of tight budgets, programs in U.S. prisons are being closely scrutinized to determine if the program costs justify the results. “The Effects of Prison Education Programs on Recidivism,” a study published in the December 2010 Journal of Correctional Education, asserts that it is wise for states to fund education programs for inmates for two reasons. Educating offenders: 1) reduces recidivism dramatically and 2) reduces costs associated with long term warehousing.

A quote cited in the Journal article by Gerald G. Gaes of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University confirms the premise that education, in the long run, saves the state money:
Education for current and former prisoners is a cost-effective solution to reducing reoffending and improving public safety. The effect of education on recidivism has been well demonstrated, and even small reductions in reoffending can have a significant impact when spread across large numbers of participants.

The following research data may be valuable to educators who need justify the cost-effectiveness of their education program:

Recidivism Statistics
Statistics support the claim/hypothesis that educating prisoners contributes significantly to reducing recidivism. General numbers provided by research suggest 50% to 70% re-incarcerate within three years. (Congressional Leaders; Education Newsletter II)
a) Three state recidivism studies made in 1997 by Steuer, Smith, and Tracy, conducted in Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio involved 3600 men and women inmates released from prison at least three years. The study showed that male and female offenders who participated in education programs while prison reduces re-incarceration by 29%. (Recidivism Rates)
b) A 2007 study of incarceration in Colorado found that recidivism rates of women who participated in vocational programs had a recidivism rate of 8.75%, those who completed their GED, 6.71%, and those who participated in neither a vocational or academic program, 26%. (Recidivism Rates)
c) Another study in 2002 surveyed research in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. Results indicted that educational programs cut recidivism from 49% to 20%. (Recidivism Rates)
d) “National studies show,” write Keys and Jackson, “that college classes cut recidivism by 30% or more. That would make a good investment for state taxpayers.”
e) A West Virginia study (1999-2000) found dramatic outcomes. Records of 320 adult male inmates discharged in 1973 were followed. At the end of four years, there were 76 recidivists; 55 had not participated in an educational program, only 7 had completed a GED program, and four were college level participants. (Gordon and Weldon)
f) According to the National Correctional Association, in a 2009 report, inmates who earn an AA/AS are 70% less likely to recidivate than those who did not complete a program; a GED, 25% less likely to recidivate; and those who earn a vocational certificate, 14.6% less likely to recidivate. (Education Newsletter 1)
g) A recent U.S. Department of Justice report says that “Prison-based education is the single most effective tool for lowering recidivism. According to the National Institute of Justice Report to the U.S. Congress, prison education is far more effective at reducing recidivism that boot camps, shock incarceration or vocational training.” The report goes on to say that “Other studies sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons find that . . . the more education programs successfully completed for each six months confirmed, the lower the recidivism rates. The exact figures indicating these inverse recidivism rates for degree recipients were: Associates (13.7%), Baccalaureates (5.6%), Masters (0%). (Education Newsletter II)

Works Cited
“Congressional Leaders Take on Recidivism and Corrections Spending.” Correctional Education Association Web (Linda A, web posting). Feb 4, 2010.
“Education as Crime Prevention,” Education Services Newsletter, Issue II. NDOC. Web. Spring, 2009. 2-3.
Education Services Newsletter, Issue I. NDOC. Web. Winter, 2009. n.pag.
Gordon, Howard R.D., and Bracie Weldon. “The Impact of Career and Technical Education Programs on Adult Offenders.” (Abstract). Journal of Correctional Education. Dec., 2003. n.pag. Print.
Keys, Shannon Lydel, and Everett Jackson. “Funding Prison College Programs Would Cut Recidivism and Save Money.” Detroit Free Press. Jan. 7, 2010. n.pag Web 4 March 2010.
“Recidivism Rates of Women Offenders and Participation of Education Programs in Prisons.” Applied Research Project. 28 April, 2008. n.pag. Print

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Re: The effects of Prison Education on Recidivism
Posted by: pweaver20 ()
Date: March 20, 2011 02:38PM

Very informative. As a correctional educator, this information will be useful. Do you have any insight into the sex offender population? I have worked with this population for over a decade and seem to see a more educated population overall; however, as a current doctoral student and researching the voice of the sex offender in correctional education, any suggestions or guidance in this vein would be greatly appreciated. It seems that the sex offender population receives long sentences in Arizona and education needs to incorporate a number of topics to maintain interest in them coming to class and to reflect and transform. Thanks. I am new to this site and just became a student member. I am hoping to be exposed to the professionals in the field of correctional education who can enlighten me . . . Have a great week ahead.

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Re: The effects of Prison Education on Recidivism
Date: April 04, 2011 09:29AM

In some of my previous studies in Virginia that focused on the impact of vocational programs on post-release outcomes, sex offenders, in addition to violent offenders, generally had better employment outcomes. We always assumed that it was somewhat related to the issue of longer sentences that you mentioned above, combined with higher levels of supervision upon release. I'll see if I could round up some of those old studies.
Eric Lichtenberger

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Re: The effects of Prison Education on Recidivism
Date: April 04, 2011 09:45AM

We tended to find that the impact of correctional education on recidivism was more indirect in nature. In other words, correctional education improved employment outcomes, which in turn reduced the likelihood of recidivism (see attachment). In some of our analyses that explored the direct relationship between correctional education and recidivism, the results were sometimes the opposite of what we were hoping to see, especially during downswings in the economy. Honestly, this took me about 5 years to figure out and prove. Let me know if this makes sense.
Eric Lichtenberger

Attachments: Policy Brief Final Draft.pdf (120.7 KB)  
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