Essay, 5 pages (1300 words)

Prison education

Prison Education Commentary (Donovan Green image taken from National Geographic website) The day has finally come, standing there in his blue cap and gown, Donovan Green waits patiently to walk into the room where his graduation ceremony will take place. His daughter who he has not seen for over ten years is in attendance and he is full of joy. He has finally achieved something good in his life and with his new confidence he is determined to turn his life around.

He has hopes and dreams of being released in less than a year and finding a job that will support him and his daughter financially. For once in his life his daughter has something to be proud of him for. Although he is celebrating now, Thomas Green has fought a long battle to receive his diploma. Green was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Over the course of his sentence, Green continued his association with a gang known as the Cripps behind bars in exchange for their protection.

A couple years into Greens sentence, Jim White (a fellow inmate serving a life sentence for murder in the 1st degree) started an education program with the goal to send two hundred of his fellow inmates to college while incarcerated. Green decided to join the program in an effort to rehabilitate himself and also prove to his daughter (whom he hasn’t seen since she was two) that he can take care of her upon his release. One may assume studying behind bars would be easy considering the amount of free time a prisoner has to study.

In reality it’s not that simple. Imagine trying to study around hundreds of killers, rapists, and thieves with the constant threat of being attacked by one of them. Everyday your life is in jeopardy at any given time someone could snap. The problem with White’s education program in the prison is that you’re not allowed to break any of the prison rules while attending or you’ll be removed from the program and the progress towards your diploma will be thrown away. Because of Greens status in the prison, gang politics force him to retaliate in case of a fight.

Depending on Greens choice he may either throw away his education or gamble his life away by abstaining from the fight (Lockdown). Nearly one and a half million individuals are housed in adult correctional facilities in the United States. The United States Department of Justice reports that the typical offender is undereducated, unemployed and living in poverty before incarceration. In the prisons, 19 percent of adult inmates are illiterate and up to 60 percent are functionally illiterate.

Most inmates are released back into society unskilled, undereducated and highly likely to become involved in crime again. Rates of recidivism in the United States are extraordinarily high, ranging from 41 percent to 71 percent. Prison based education is the single most effective tool for lowering recidivism. According to the National Institute of Justice Report to the US Congress, prison education is far more effective at reducing recidivism than boot camps, shock incarceration or vocational training (Harlow).

In the state of Texas a study was done about the rates of recidivism in inmates with a secondary education. Two years after release, the overall recidivism rate for college degree holders was as low as 12 percent and inversely differentiated by type of degree. The exact figures indicated these inverse recidivism rates for degree recipients were: Associate’s (13. 7%), Baccalaureate’s (5. 6%) and Master’s (0%). The state of Texas also found that the recidivism rate for an inmate who received a GED certificate or completed a vocational training was 20 percent (Pollock).

The education system used in prison is largely ABE (Adult Basic Education), which focuses mostly on literacy training or programs of study that lead to either a GED or high school diploma. About 68% of inmates have not received a high school diploma in 1997 (Pollock). About 40 % have not received either a high school diploma or GED, compared with only 18% of the general population (Harlow). It has also been reported that white, black, and Hispanic men in prison were “ markedly” less educated than their counterparts in the general population (Harlow). Among those with no education the rates of recidivism are very high.

Some state systems have education programs in place for basic literacy to college classes. There is debate over whether the money should be spent to educate inmates but there is hard evidence that education or some kind of vocational training drastically lowers the rate of recidivism. The Texas Criminal Justice Program Policy Council released a report in 2000 that tracked almost 26, 000 inmates that had been released from prison in 1997 and 1998. They found that young inmates who had learned to read while incarcerated where 37 percent less likely to recidivate after eing released. In 1965, Congress passed Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which permitted inmates to apply for financial aid in the form of Pell Grants to attend college. By 1982, there were more than 350 college programs available in 90 percent of the States. Numerous studies were done to evaluate these programs. Success was measured by the rate of re-arrest and the offender’s ability to maintain employment upon release. The results were overwhelmingly positive and proved that higher education prevented people from returning to prison.

In the 1990’s, elected officials began introducing legislation to prohibit tuition assistance to inmates. The United States Department of Education resisted this change of policy and continued to support the use of Pell grants (Welsh). The Department of Education published the following facts in support of Pell eligibility for the incarcerated: ·Of the 5. 3 billion awarded in Pell grants in 1993, about 34 million were awarded to inmates. This represents less than 1/10 of one percent of the total grant awards. ·The annual Pell grant awarded per inmate was less than $1, 300. Pell grants are given to education providers, not inmates, to pay for the inmates educational expenses. ·Death row inmates and inmates serving life sentences without parole were not eligible for Pell grants. Despite the position of policy experts within the federal and state government, including both educators and correctional officials, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act effectively dismantled correctional facilities higher education. Almost overnight the most effective and cost-beneficial correctional policy in the United States collapsed (Welsh).

The evidence illustrated above shows overwhelming consensus among public officials that post-secondary education is the most successful and cost-effective method of preventing crime. The public safety and economic impact of correctional education is enormous. Prior to the government banning the use of Pell grants for prisoners to pay for college many prisons throughout the country had some sort of education plan in place to better the inmates and give them job possibilities once released. The United States Government should resume its policy of releasing a fraction of the

Pell grants to qualified incarcerated Americans. An extremely modest public investment would create a massive response from private, non-profit educational and religious organizations. Such a policy would sharply cut the rates of recidivism and save the states millions of dollars. It would also create a positive outcome in the lives of the inmates who had lower literacy rates and allow them the chance to obtain a job that was legal once released. Works Cited ” Complete iliteracy. ” Education as Crime Prevention. Web. 18 Apr 2011. . Harlow, C. Bureau of Justice Statistics Report: Selected Findings: Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers. Washington D. C. : Department of Justice, 2003. Print. ” Inmate U. ” Lockdown. National Geographic: 2007. Television. 8 Apr 2011. Pollock, Joycelyn. Prisons and Prison Life. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company, 2004. pp 130-38. Print. Welsh, M. The Effects of the Eliminations of Pell Grant Eligibility for State Prison Inmates. Ashland: Journal of Correctional Education, 2002. Print.

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