By Christopher Zoukis
As prisons across the United States continue to experience overpopulation, there has been increasing concern among taxpayers regarding the ultimate costs of incarcerating so many individuals. Critics point to unsustainable incarceration numbers, huge costs and static crime rates as reasons why the criminal justice system needs to be seriously reformed. Image courtesy prisonstudiesproject.org
A vocal minority of experts and media analysts, who see prison education as the best route to reform the system, is seeking to increase public awareness and challenge the status quo.
Critics of the criminal justice system can usually agree on several things: costs are way too high, too many people are crowded into jails and prisons, and far too many felons who are released end up committing crimes and reentering the criminal justice system. Developing ways to reform the system typically focus on one of these areas, such as lowering the overhead costs of running prisons, the privatization of prisons, changing laws to reduce the number of incarcerated persons or focusing on reduced rates of recidivism. Gaining public support for any of these initiatives can be difficult, however, as there are always concerns of both costs and the impact on public safety.
The challenges of reducing recidivism
Proponents of prison education have focused their attention on lowering recidivism rates. Doing so, they argue, will alleviate prison crowding and save taxpayers considerable amounts of money. To adequately reduce recidivism, however, the focus must be on why a majority of felons end up returning to jail.