Prison Education as a Tool for Socialization (Part 2)

By Christopher Zoukis

A cost-effective method of providing this anticipatory socialization is through correctional education. Almost any learned person will agree that the pursuit of an education is a means of healthy, pro-social growth. The same is true not only outside of the prison environment, but inside it, too. By allowing offenders to grow through education they will be able to not only compete in the job market upon release, but be afforded the opportunity to change their criminal mentality and motivations.

Through the act of reading about sociology the offender can come to a better understanding of the social class that they came from; hence, come to a better understanding of their own role inside their class and perhaps even an understanding of why they do the things they do. Likewise, an English course can afford the offender with the skills needed to convey their thoughts and feelings in an appropriate manner.

Educating prisoners is a tough sell. The average American is already so economically overburdened that the idea of providing a free education to the prison population seems...outrageous. By looking at prison education in a strictly economic context, it can be easy to overlook the meat of the issue. The issue isn't about paying for prisoners to be educated. It's about re-socializing them so that they don't return to prison. It's about providing the tools needed so that the prison population is able to break the cycle of crime and incarceration. It's about protecting American men, women, and children in the most economically sound fashion. None of these results look like coddling to me.

If we, as a nation, want offenders to leave the role of the criminal, we need to remove the barriers to the path of law-abiding citizenship. There are many steps that must be taken; many avenues which must be cleared. Many of these have to do with restorative justice where we first punish, then we let them return and allow them to succeed. The problem with the current model of not educating the incarcerated is that we will eventually have to release them from prison. When this happens, the offenders are coming out worse off than when they went in. Hence, we are opening ourselves and our communities to crime. We are allowing more citizens to be victimized by not proactively rehabilitating our incarcerated offenders.

What needs to happen is this: The offender needs to be re-socialized through education so that upon their release they are no longer a threat to society. Then, when we stop punishing them and we allow them to succeed, they will be able to get out, stay out, and be an asset to the communities in which they return. After a period of time, and re-socialization through education, the number of recidivists will dwindle and dwindle until our system starts showing net gains, not losses. Only then will the never-ending cycle of crime be broken.