Education Is Always the Key
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Politics and Activism

Education Is Always the Key

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Education Is Always the Key
Bureau of Justice Assistance

On July 31, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education launched a second chance pilot program lifting a 20-year ban on reinstating incarcerated people’s eligibility to apply for Pell grants. As a part of President Obama’s initiative to improve the justice system and reduce recidivism thousands of incarcerated students will be able to continue pursuing education once released. Both inside and outside of cells, education has proven to be the best way to impede and prevent the cycle of poverty and violence.

In 2014, a comprehensive study by the Rand Corporation verified what we know intuitively, that education programs in prisons are very effective. The report concluded that, "on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had a 43 percent lower odds of recidivating" than inmates who did not.

In a recent conversation with my younger sister, who is currently attending college in Livermore, Calif., she brought up an article she read in The New York Times entitled "Should the Obama Generation Drop Out?". The author's opinion was that attending high school and earning a bachelor's degree should not be job requirements. My sister and I went on to discuss how even with an associates or bachelor's degree, according to the United States Department of Labor there is still an unemployment rate just below 5 percent.

Though we both agreed this would be an absurd thing to do, according to a new term enrollment report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center the overall post-secondary enrollments have decreased 1.9 percent from the previous spring to spring 2015.

Correctional education is not a new idea. In a publication on Correctional Education by Glenn M. Kendall, he cites several writings on the subject from as early as 1927. Also mentioned in Kendall's writings are the theories of Austin MacCormick. MacCormick was a huge prison reform advocate and an authority on correctional education, who stated that "the prisoner is primarily an adult in need of education and only secondarily a criminal in need of reform. The aim of correctional education is to extend to prisoners as individuals every type of educational opportunity that experience or sound reasoning shows may be of benefit or of interest to them, in the hope that they may thereby be fitted to live more competently, satisfyingly, and cooperatively as members of society."

Prisoners more times than not do not act in hopes of recidivism but in hopes of seeking employment and improving their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. In a 1995 study of correctional education program completers released in 1990-1991, Jenkins, Steurer, and Pendry found that the higher the level of educational attainment while incarcerated, the more likely the releasee was to have obtained employment upon release. This has been similarly proven in several other studies.

In the same way that higher education is necessary in the real world to affect change or make money, it is necessary to provide inmates with an education to reduce recidivism and actually help more people transition back into society.

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