Why Is Prison Education So Important?

By Nick Sizemore

How many times have we heard the old cliché? "Education is important. It's the key to success." Undoubtedly, too many times to even fathom, probably having heard it repeated since that first bad grade in elementary school and every year after. I know that I did. Though, I never thought to question why. Why is education so important?

On the surface, the answer to the question is simple: Without an education a good job is hard to find. To an extent this is true, but how often have we met people who went to college and majored in a subject they didn't end up going into? In that instance, the education, while a smart move in general, was for the wrong reasons. The same can be said of prisoners who obtain an education just so it looks good on the record at parole hearings or upon release. The issue is that, while it looks good, it most certainly won't prevent the person from returning to prison. On the other hand, if the prisoner’s motivation for obtaining the education was sincere – and not simply to impress – then it will more than likely have a life-changing impact. It may very well keep them out of the revolving door back to prison.

Through education, we begin to learn about ourselves and that is the key to its importance. Studying certain subjects may open windows in the mind, shedding light on past/current behaviors, giving us answers to why we've done the things we have or became who we are. Other subjects may spark inspiration as to who we want to be or what we want to do in life.

Regardless of your prior profession, be it sales, construction, banking, nursing, or another field, you might pick up an unrelated subject, realize something new about yourself, and turn it into a successful career. For instance, a mathematics course might expose someone with a natural talent for numbers to an accounting or book keeping career. Language courses may expose a gift for words leading to a career in writing or journalism. A psychology course may lead to a counseling job and so on. To quote another cliché: "The possibilities are endless."

Being incarcerated does not limit your abilities, but rather provides you with nothing but time to educate yourself. The resources are vast both inside and out. You need only take advantage of them and possess the desire to learn with the discipline to do so. Treat your time as an ongoing enrollment in college and you'll exit with massive amounts of knowledge. After all, knowledge is power, right? No! Knowledge is only power when you know how to apply it.

Socrates was once thought to be the wisest man in the world and upon being told as much, he responded that he was wise only because he was aware of how little he actually knew. With education comes self-awareness which will in turn break the cycle of recidivism. Once you have been released and have broken the cycle of recidivism, don't stop your educational endeavors because once the search for information and knowledge ceases, ignorance sets in.

Obviously, if you're reading this article about prison education, you have a desire to learn. So, seek out those resources, apply the discipline, become a success, and break the cycle. To quote a final cliché: "You're never too old to learn." I'd add one final line to the cliché: You're never too downtrodden to grow and succeed either.