The State of Prison Education in the States

By George Hook

Currently, 26 State prison systems have prison education programs, much of it very limited, and 24 States have none at all, essentially an even split.  The “haves” are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.  That’s 25.  Not included is Georgia, number 26 in that list, because it provides education for women only, and that education is confined to religious preparation only.  The “have-nots” are Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

What impact does the absence of prison educational programming have on recidivism rates?  No one can know for sure because each prisoner may be impacted differently based upon individual characteristics and circumstances.  Anecdotally, the results are probably better than inconsequential, and, presumably, never bad.  But anecdote is merely a sampling of some prisoners’ individual assessments, and probably not mathematical or scientific enough to be credited by academia, or even legislatures, for that matter, as the appropriate basis for continuing support.  

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