Innovative Correctional Education Programs: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas

U.S. Department of Education  Image courtesy csgjusticecenter.org

Correctional education is a fundamental component of rehabilitative programming offered in juvenile justice confinement facilities, most American prisons, and many jails and detention centers. Correctional populations are over-represented with individuals having below average levels of educational attainment—education "behind bars" presents an opportunity for the incarcerated to prepare for success upon release. A wide variety of administering entities operate correctional institutions in the United States, and a wide variety of organizations are the providers of onsite prison education programs. Various federal education programs have supported education in State and local prisons; and in 1991, an Office of Correctional Education (OCE) was created by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, to coordinate and improve these efforts to support educational opportunities in correctional settings. The OCE function currently resides in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). While OCE has a unique coordinating role for correctional education, other administrative units within the Department of Education, support and oversee specific programs that are based in correctional facilities.

Federal Grant Programs – Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities

In In March 2013, The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice announced the award of three grants totaling $924,036 to adult education providers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Kansas for innovative correctional education programs aimed at helping America’s inmate population make a smooth re-entry to society through education and workforce training. Projects on Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) is a one-time discretionary grant funding opportunity funded by the Second Chance Act, which is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component within the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice. PRESCO aims to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders and provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision; as well as create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. At the heart of the (PRESCO) projects is the Reentry Education Model. Grant recipients listed below are implementing the Reentry Education Model, including evidence-based approaches to support individuals leaving prison to successfully transition back into the community through schooling and career advancement.

  • Western Technical College
    La Crosse, Wisconsin
    Funding Amount: $291,864.
    Contact: Brian (Rande) Daykin,
    Email: daykinr@westerntc.edu

  • Lancaster-Lebanon,
    Lancaster, Pennsylvania
    Funding Amount: $272,032.
    Contact: Sandra Strunk,
    Email: sandy_strunk@iu13.org

  • Barton County Community College
    Great Bend, Kansas
    Funding Amount: $360,140
    Contact: Cathie Oshiro,
    Email: oshiroc@bartonccc.edudu

Among the suggested improvements for correctional education contained in the Education Department’s Reentry Education Model are:

  • establishing an integrated reentry program that offers and incorporates education services, workforce training, and job search support during intake and prerelease processes and links education to employment services;
  • targeting job support to labor market demands that do not have criminal history restrictions;
  • using technology to increase program access and data to measure performance and outcomes, and
  • conducting thorough program evaluations to further share lessons learned and best practices.