Transforming Communities Through Prison Education

These resource papers are excerpted from the book College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons:

“Correctional education provides far more than reduced recidivism, far more than huge economic savings….  It provides a transformation in the individual which no other program can.”

Brian Fischer, Commissioner, NY State Department of Correctional Services

The correlation between prison education and reduced recidivism is clear. Inmates who participate in educational programs have lower recidivism rates after release. They also had fewer parole violations and stronger employment records.

A college education or advanced degree paves the road to better jobs at higher salaries, and that’s good for our nation.

  • Released prisoners who obtain jobs are 50% less likely to return to jail.
  • Educated ex-prisoners contribute to society.
  • Inmates who obtain an education take more responsibility in their roles as spouses, adult children, and siblings.
  • They fulfill their potential as human beings.

Education teaches people how to handle difficult situations in a positive, empowered way.  The type of changes that happen in students’ thought processes during education affects how they think far beyond the textbook. Studying a subject — any subject — teaches men and women how to approach issues from new angles and find solutions.
At its core, college isn’t really about tests or grades. It’s about learning how to think. The process of education, especially the process of higher education, develops personal responsibility and builds character. It proves that hard work really does pay off.

Many individuals who end up in prison come from broken families. Their schools were inadequate, or they have learning disabilities that have gone unrecognized. Racial discrimination, physical or sexual abuse, or even the lack of supportive adults in their lives sent them down the wrong road.

Education and the new world it opens up might be the first time they’ve ever realized that a different road is available.

Prisoners who participate in educational programs see the future differently. They develop a more positive outlook. Receiving a diploma bolsters their confidence. They discover that they can take responsibility for themselves. No matter what happened in the past, their future can be different. Their future can be brighter. And they can be a guiding light for others who come after them.