Prison Education Funding in Peril: Incarcerated Individuals Program Funding Erased

In the June 2011 issue (Volume 62, Issue 2) of the Journal of Correctional Education much is talked about. Studies are presented which show the positive effect of post-secondary correctional education (college in prison), a discussion is held upon factors affecting student success in post-secondary correctional education, and a paper is presented which discusses the future of research on post-secondary correctional education.

While all of this research is interesting to someone who follows prison education policy developments closely, it's the common thread of these that should be of interest to prison educators and prisoner-students alike. The common thread is the 'Incarcerated Individuals Program' (IIP) which was formerly called the 'Incarcerated Youthful Offender' program (IYO). The 'Incarcerated Youthful Offender' program, started in 1998, used to provide funding for vocational education, preparation for higher education, and higher education in prisons across the country to prisoners 25-years old and younger. Then, upon much advocacy and lobbying, the age was raised from 25-years old and younger to 35-years old and younger. Shortly after the expansion in eligibility the name changed to 'Incarcerated Individuals Program' in 2008.

The reason this is of concern to prison educators and prisoner-students alike is because IIP’s funding has been completely cut for fiscal year 2012. This means that all of the programs, including the papers and studies in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Correctional Education, which were based upon IIP funding, will either not exist in fiscal year 2012 or alternative sources of funding will need to be acquired. And as everyone knows, funding in an economically tumultuous time such as this is not an easy thing to come by.

The Correctional Education Association (CEA), in their article 'A Note from the Editor and CEA' by John Dowdell and Stephen Steurer, noted that, "This is a great setback for post-secondary correctional education and an issue that CEA is taking very seriously. We are in constant contact with federal officials and legislators and involved in the efforts that are underway to reinstate funding in the next federal budget."

While an economic issue on its face, the issue extends much deeper. The defunding of the IIP has the real potential to cause the loss of jobs for prison educators and the loss of programming for prisoner-students. I'm sad to say that some of the programs that we, on the inside, have come to rely upon might not be around in fiscal year 2012. As a prison education researcher, I'm also saddened by the potential loss of research that would have been funded by the IIP in fiscal year 2012.

The CEA ends their article by stating, "Please be assured that the Correctional Education Association is diligently working to convey this message [of the importance of programs funded by the IIP] to legislators and policy makers." Let me add to this that the Prison Education Blog (http://www.PrisonEducation.com), the Education Behind Bars Newsletter (/ebbn/), and myself, a lone prison education researcher, prisoner-student, and prison educator, are standing behind the CEA on this issue, and will be marshaling the energies of our collective enterprises to effect meaningful change – the funding of the Incarcerated Individuals Program.