Education In Prison Can Change Lives
A quality education can reduce return rates
One woman in Indiana “was disruptive, self-harming, and sold drugs in jail” when she started her sentence. She decided to better herself through education. She especially liked public policy courses. She recently spearheaded a program in Indianapolis that hires former prisoners to rehab abandoned buildings.
A 20-year-old inmate education program developed at Temple University called the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program lets inmates take classes with local college students. At Lake Superior College, more than 300 students have taken courses since the program was established there in 2012.
The Education Justice Project at the Danville Correctional Center in Illinois has been offering colleges classes with credits to inmates since 2016. The prisoners are offered the same courses as the University of Illinois, which are taught by the same professors and grad students. The program recently received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which the program’s founder wants to use to be able to award degrees to qualifying students.
Many people think of our huge incarcerated population as out of sight, out of mind. But a majority of these inmates are going to get out at some point, and we need to take a look at educational opportunities they have at their disposal to help them deal with post-prison life.
There are more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., each costing taxpayers an average of $30,000. Meanwhile, we spend just $10,000 per year on our public school students.
Education has been shown to reduce the rate at which former prisoners return to prison. A proper education is often something that was lacking in a prisoner’s life to begin with - a major factor in the criminal path that they chose to go down.
The best way to decrease recidivism rates is to provide inmates with marketable skills that will help them build careers upon their release. We need to keep looking at ways to make prison education happen and stop the brutal cycle of release and return for prisoners.