College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students


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Education can be a gateway to social and economic mobility. This vital opportunity, however, is currently being denied to a significant portion of the more than 2.

Colleges push for more resources to support prison education programs

Compared with 18 percent of the general population, approximately 41 percent of incarcerated individuals do not hold a high school diploma. Similarly, while 48 percent of general population has received any postsecondary or college education, only 24 percent of people in federal prisons have received the same level of education.

In , the Vera Institute of Justice reported that only 35 percent of state prisons provide college-level courses, and these programs only serve 6 percent of incarcerated individuals nationwide. In , the Obama administration announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program —an experimental program allowing 12, qualifying incarcerated students to take college-level courses while in prison. The future of this program is uncertain as Congress decides whether to include Pell Grants for prisons—which currently receives less than 1 percent of total Pell program funding—in their reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.


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Receiving a quality education continues to be out of reach for much of the prison population due to a lack of funding for, and access to, the materials needed for the success of these programs. In , the U. Department of Education released an analysis which showed that over the course of three decades—from to —state and local spending on prisons and jails increased at three times the rate of funding for pre-K public education over the same years.

Nationwide, the bulk of corrections spending goes toward housing the ever-growing prison population—a consequence of the rapidly expanding U.

Meagan Wilson

Rather than spending more to house the growing prison population and to fund excessive rates of incarceration, federal and state governments should focus instead on supporting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. According to a study by the U. Sentencing Commission USSC , nearly half of all individuals released from federal prisons are rearrested within eight years of their release, and around half of those rearrested are sent back to jail.

The same study found that individuals younger than 21 who are released from federal prison are rearrested at the highest rates of any age group.


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Individuals who did not complete high school were rearrested at the highest rate— Since educational, vocational, and drug rehabilitation programs decrease the likelihood that inmates will re-offend, they also allow ex-convicts to contribute to society, boosting the economy. Image: The U. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Criminologists have shown that prison education classes drastically reduce the recidivism rate. Prisoners in New York who earn a college degree while incarcerated are almost half as likely to get arrested after release compared to inmates who do not earn a degree.

In addition to educational opportunities, job-training programs in prison reduce the re-offending rate and prove to be cost-effective. Minnesota prisoners who participate in work-release programs are almost twice as likely to find work within the first couple years of release than inmates who do not have work experience.

Vocational training also allows ex-convicts to give back to society and boost the economy. Furthermore, alcohol and drug addiction programs have been shown to help prisoners rebuild their lives, increasing the chances that ex-convicts remain outside of prison.

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Education Opportunities in Prison Are Key to Reducing Crime

After examining the studies about the cost effectiveness of educational, vocational, and drug treatment programs, it should be a no-brainer for politicians to support policy that emboldens prisons to administer rehabilitation programs for their inmates. We believe that there should be oversight to ensure that prison education programs are high quality and reflect the equivalent of higher education in the community as much as possible.

Additionally, eligibility for Pell Grants should apply to students behind bars in the same manner as students in the community, regardless of the type of offense that brought them to prison. As the research shows, higher education directly contributes to the success of people after release. Prison Fellowship is advancing a federal campaign to lift the ban on Pell grants for incarcerated students.

Prison education programs are shown to reduce prison violence and recidivism, reducing future victims and strengthening families that otherwise would have been fractured by more crime and incarceration.

Nov. 4th: Los Tigres Del Norte at Folsom Prison Film Screening

By providing greater access to higher education in prison, we can tap into the God-given potential of men and women who, despite their choices in the past, can make significant future contributions to their families and communities. Davis, et al. Sign up to receive news, stories, and information based on your needs and interests.

Prisoners Are College Students - Tanya Erzen - TEDxWashingtonCorrectionsCenterforWomen

Prison Fellowship.

College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students
College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students

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