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

A high-school degree and vocational training can help ensure an ex-prisoner’s successful reentry into society. Post-secondary education is even more effective in reducing recidivism. By far the greatest reduction comes with college education.

A strong correlation between education and income levels allows released prisoners with career skills to find jobs more easily … despite their criminal records. In addition to allowing individuals to survive, employment provides the routines, networks, and self-esteem productive citizens need.

The permanent reinstatement of federal financial assistance — Pell Grants — is critical. Tell your congressperson to continue allowing Pell funding. Tell them you want the new test program expanded, and that you fully expect the results will prove the need to continue the program permanently. Not just for prisoners, not just for their families, and not just for the children of inmates but for America.

--Education significantly reduces recidivism.

--The amount of money states and municipalities will save on crime, inmate warehousing, and judiciary procedures far exceeds the investment.

Warren Buffett, George Soros, and the Gates and Ford Foundations all believe that lower crime rates and reduced recidivism depend on education inside prisons. Not just GED and high school classes, and not just vocational programs, either. Prisoners need college-level classes that will change the way they think.

Education inside prison is the first step. All released prisoners will struggle as they rebuild old relationships, apply for jobs, and look for a place to live. Tell your elected officials that recidivism among the 725,000 prisoners released every year can be further reduced by providing post-release support such as:

  • Additional education
  • Contacts with employers willing to hire ex-prisoners
  • Housing and transportation support
  • Continuing substance abuse treatment
  • Partnerships that connect the communities, the prisons, local educational institutions, and local businesses
  • The right kind of political leadership

An investment in education can reduce costs, improve security and prisoner behavior inside prison facilities, and contribute to a much safer, more prosperous world. To institute change in your state, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, the Pew Center on the States, the Open Society Institute and the Joyce Foundation. Press your state’s policymakers to question the harsh sentences that have built the largest prison population in the world.

Do it for your community. Do it for your kids. Do it for yourself.