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Benefits of Prison Education

Recidivism

Recidivism

The Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study, which tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison, found that about 2/3 (67.8%) of released prisoners were rearrested within 3 years of release and more than 3/4 (76.6%) were rearrested within 5 years. More than half (56.7%) of these rearrests were in the first year after release. However, there is a 43% reduction in recidivism rates for those prisoners who participate in prison education programs. Indeed, the higher the degree, the lower the recidivism rate is: 14% for those who obtain an associate degree, 5.6% for those who obtain a bachelor’s degree, and 0% for those who obtain a master’s degree.

Employment Opportunities

There are increased and improved employment opportunities available for those formerly incarcerated people who engaged in prison education programs, and reentry is far smoother and more successful for those who took classes in prison, especially insofar as gainful employment is one of the defining features of successful reentry.

Employment Opportunities
Cost Effective

Cost Effective

Prison education is a highly cost-effective investment. A study by the Department of Policy Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, for instance, found that “a $1 million investment in incarceration will prevent about 350 crimes, while that same investment in [prison] education will prevent more than 600 crimes. [Prison] education is almost twice as cost effective as incarceration.” Another study found that for every $1 invested in prison education, taxpayers save $4-$5 in re-incarceration costs during the first three years post-release.

“Inside” Benefits

Even for those who are serving lengthy—even natural life—sentences, prison education has profound and often life-changing benefits. There is a substantial reduction in violence and disciplinary infractions among those involved in prison education. A survey of an Indiana prison, for instance, showed that incarcerated people who were enrolled in college classes committed 75% fewer infractions than incarcerated people who were not enrolled. Prison education also breaks down racial and ethnic barriers that are often a cause of tension and violence in prisons, significantly improves relations between staff members and the incarcerated, and dramatically enhances the prisoners’ self-esteem.

“Inside” Benefits
Community and Intergenerational Benefits

Community and Intergenerational Benefits

The impact of education goes well beyond the walls of the prisons themselves, extending into the home communities of the incarcerated students. Studies show, for instance, that postsecondary prison education has many positive effects on the children of the incarcerated, offering a chance to break the intergenerational cycle of inequality and incarceration.