With the United States’ criminal justice system facing extraordinary challenges, including crowded jails, busy courtrooms, state budget pressures and high recidivism rates, criticism continues to mount. However, few solutions seem to gain traction.
Prisons are seen today as a place of retribution for crimes committed, instead of an opportunity to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for productive lives outside of a jail cell. If the criminal justice system were to focus on rehabilitation by educating prisoners, society as a whole would benefit immensely.
Most people who enter the criminal justice system come from a troubled background with little to no family or community support. By locking these prisoners up with very few productive tasks, having them form mutual bonds with other prisoners based on frustration and anger and then releasing them into a world in which they have few positive role models and no practical job skills, the system practically seems designed to encourage recidivism.
Offering prisoners educational opportunities redesigns this system by giving prisoners a path out of the recidivism cycle. Education within prison can range from traditional classroom formats—such as having prisoners work toward a high school equivalency degree (GED)—to technical skills that require training and even certification. Having a GED can help a former prisoner land a higher paying and more rewarding job, or lead to further educational opportunities. Likewise, technical skills are marketable and lead to well-paying careers.