Prison Education Programs Effective at Reducing Recidivism

By Christopher Zoukis

The RAND Corporation recently published a study which analyzed 50 research papers and studies concerning the effectiveness of prison education programs on reducing recidivism rates.  The study, as previously reported here at Prison Education News and at the Prison Law Blog, showed, yet again, that prison education programming is still the least expensive, most effective form of crime control that the world currently knows.  Image courtesy lawprofessors.typepad.com

The study reported that while 95 percent of American inmates are eventually released from custody (Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data), that 40 percent (Pew data) to 51.8 percent (BJS data) return to prison within 3 years of release.  The RAND study further proclaimed that participants in prison education programs realized a 43 percent reduction in recidivism rates, were 13 percent more likely to be employed post-release, and that correction's departments would realize a $5 cost savings for every $1 spent on prison education programming.

This data agrees with a recent New York Times article which reported that graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative recidivated at a rate of 2.5 percent and participants who did not graduate recidivated at a rate of 4 percent, while the New York state recidivism average was an unwieldy 40 percent for 3 years following release from custody.

Sadly, even with this remarkable data at hand, funding for prison education programs fell 6 percent nationally during the 2009-2012 period.  States with larger prison populations cut their prison education funding by as much as 20 percent.

To learn more about this developing story, stay tuned here at Prison Education News or go to the Smithsonian Magazine.