At a recent graduation in Arkansas, there were no mortarboards and gowns allowed — those could hide weapons. Excited family members were told to calm down and be seated when their cheers got too rowdy. There were locks, gates and plenty of security, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm over the event, where 641 inmates of the state’s prison schools were graduating, and Governor Asa Hutchinson was speaking— the only graduation speech request he accepted this year.
Last year when changes to the GED programs were first announced, analysts predicted it would have a serious impact on the ability of prisoners to acquire their certificates. A year later, those predictions have proven accurate. Prison GED success rates have dropped dramatically, in some places up to 82% since the system switched over. To begin, the content
Turning hardened criminals into productive members of society does not happen on its own, it takes an education. With 68 percent of prisoners without a high school diploma or a GED, there is no better time than now to educate our nations’ prisoners. Such is the case in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Seeing the
By Chloe Della Costa U.S. college programs for incarcerated students were largely defunded in the ’90s. At the time, this was seemingly great news for “tough on crime” advocates, but this year, a new debate has erupted out of New York state. In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an initiative to both educate New York’s
By Leah Binkovitz / Houston Chronicle Ramiro Eric Avalos just celebrated his 32nd birthday – his third awaiting trial in the Fort Bend County jail. “It’s not depressing like it used to be,” he said. That’s partly because he started taking GED classes under a new program the jail launched this year. The second set
By Richard Foster
Ninety-five percent of American prisoners will be released back into society, based on information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. One of the most important goals of the criminal justice system is to reduce the likelihood they will recidivate upon release. Research shows that completion of a GED during incarceration reduces the percent of recidivism by approximately five percent. The Bureau also reports that, “As of June 30, 2009, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,617,478 prisoners.” Five percent would therefore be equivalent to around 80,000 fewer returnees.
According to the U. S. Department of Justice: FY 2011 Budget Request, “As a result of successful law enforcement policies, the number of criminal suspects appearing in federal court continues to grow, as does the number of individuals ordered detained and ultimately incarcerated.” It goes on to explain that the number of FY 2010 prisoners was 215,000 which is expected to rise approximately 3.2% in FY 2011, up 7,000 to 222,000 inmates.
The notion that an increase in the inmate population represents success could be viewed differently. These 7,000 suspects, detainees, and convicts are representative of two categories of offenders. Some are new to the federal system, yet many are returning after previous incarceration. Whether for parole violations or due to new charges being filed, recidivism rates account for an unnecessarily large proportion of those within our prison system. The Pew Center on the States’ report, State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons, April 13, 2011, reports that based on the data received by 41 states on prisoners released in 2004, after three years, the normal time period for these studies, there was a recidivism rate of 43.3%. This represents almost half the inmates released. It is no wonder that the U.S. has the largest percentage of its population incarcerated, as many of those who recidivate end up back in prison. Again, according to the Pew study, “…, incarceration levels had risen to a point where one in 100 American adults was behind bars. A second Pew study the following year added another disturbing dimension to the picture, revealing that one in 31 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole.”
Steve is looking down at his G.E.D. test booklet. It’s his fourth time taking this test. He’s mastered three of the five test subjects and he’s gazing at the questions – after months of preparation and studying – though it all looks Greek to him.
He’s sweating and feeling nauseous. Steve knows that he isn’t going to achieve what he’s been working on for so long. He failed and now he needs to do all the studying all over again.
Many Americans go through this problem every day. Passing the G.E.D. is no easy task, but it’s achievable. Some call it Test Block Syndrome. That’s when you suddenly forget what you studied, but it’s not that: it is confidence.
Many prisoners incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons have grown up with minimal to no education. Prison administrations recommend that prisoners sign up and complete the G.E.D. program offered in their Education Department prior to release. But even then, a number of enrolled prisoner-students leave prison without attaining a G.E.D. This results in increased recidivism rates.
As a result, the prison-educators at FCC Petersburg have implemented a program that would remedy the problems that Steve encountered. That program is called: Fasttrack G.E.D.
Students that earn their General Education Development diplomas while incarcerated have a lower rate of reoffending because they check out of their cell with a tool that insures economical productivity. Inmates that return to society with a diploma in hand are more likely to be hired even with a criminal record history.
Earning a GED while incarcerated at Kent County, Grand Rapids MI is a viable option for rehabilitating inmates in a short amount of time because their stay is limited.
A GED diploma is the magical entry to the working world because it noticeably demonstrates proof an individual is willing to change. The recidivism rate is dramatically lowered for ex inmates when they have the capacity to care for themselves and their families.
The downside of this seemingly easy solution for a complicated problem is there is a shortage of GED teachers.
Kent County, Grand Rapids, MI Community Corrections has experienced the impact of a scarcity of GED instructors with only one part time teacher, one tutor, and two youth advocates work with incarcerated students to help them earn their GED. This is a crime because obtaining a diploma for inmates increases their chances of a successful future in the outside world. A GED diploma is the key to employment and avoiding a life of crime.
By George Hook
The BOP Central Office Division of Industries, Education, and Vocational Training has published an Occupational Training Programs Directory which sets forth its program offerings to federal prisoners in the Advanced Occupational Training category. The stated purpose of these programs is to afford prisoners interested in furthering their employability upon release the opportunity to do so by enrolling in the various vocational courses offered. Included are exploratory, marketable skill, and apprenticeship level courses. According to that Directory, 81 more or less distinct courses in the Advanced Occupational Training category are offered. These Advanced Occupational Training courses range in duration from two days to 48 months. The typical duration is 12 months.
The courses offered in the Advanced Occupational Training category are Accounting Operations, Administrative Assistant, Advanced Computer Applications, Advanced Diesel Engine Repair, Alcohol Substance Abuse Studies, Animal Husbandry, Aquaculture, Automotive Diagnostics Repair, AutoCAD, Automated Computer Aided Design and Drafting, Basic Baking, Basic Computer Applications, Basic Computer Repair and Refurbishing, Basic Computer Skills, Basic Custodial Maintenance, Basic Diesel Engine Repair, Bookkeeping and Clerical Studies, Business Foundations, Building Maintenance—Electrical, Business Management and Law, Business Supervision and Management, Building Trades, Business Accounting, Automotive Service, Bookbinding, Business Administration, Business and Information Processing, Business Leadership, Business Technology, Canine Trainer, Computer Applications, Computer Business Education, Commercial Drivers License, Computerized Engraving, Computer Refurbishing—Hardware, Computer Refurbishing—Software, Construction Technology, Consumer Electronic Repair, Copy Repair, Cosmetology,
By George Hook
The BOP Central Office Division of Industries, Education, and Vocational Training is ultimately responsible for education and vocational training programs within the Bureau of Prisons, but each Federal prison has its own education department providing educational activities to federal prisoners. The Division manages Adult Continuing Education (ACE) activities, which are formal instructional classes designed to increase prisoners’ general knowledge in a wide variety of subjects, such as writing and math, which is part of the overall budget and does not have its own distinct funding stream. Correctional institutions receive funds for educational programs through the regional BOP offices.
The BOP has published an Occupational Training Programs Directory. The Introduction to the Directory states that the Directory is updated annually. However, the date on the cover of the only Directory available currently is September, 2006. The Directory of that date lists occupational training and apprenticeship programs offered to prisoners in all the federal facilities.