Correctional Education Studies

Hundreds of studies have been published concerning correctional education.  All of these studies, dating back to 1939,  assert that correctional education effectively and efficiently reduces recidivism, and does so at a significantly lower price point than incarceration [1][2][3][4].  In an effort to show the across-the-board recidivism reduction benefits of correctional education, the following studies dating back to 1974 are presented:

  • 1974: Burlington County College of New Jersey prison college program: 10% program recidivism rate for participants as compared to 80 percent national recidivism rate. [5]
  • 1976: Alexander City State Junior College prison college program: 16 percent program recidivism rate for participants as compared to 70 to 75 percent national rate. [6]
  • 1979: Maryland Correctional Training Center's post-secondary correctional education program: "positive effect in reducing recidivism among participants." [7]
  • 1979: State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania post-secondary correctional education program: "inmate students with the highest risk of recidivism experienced a statistically significant (at the .05 level) reduction in recidivism when compared to the control group of 108 variables." [8]
  • 1980: Texas Department of Corrections Treatment Directorate: "participation in the junior college [correctional education] program definitely results in lower recidivism rates." [9]
  • 1981: University of Victoria of Canada prison college program: "14 percent program recidivism rate compared to 52 percent matched group." [10]
  • 1983: Folsom prison college program: 0 percent baccalaureate program recidivism rate compared to 24 percent standard first year recidivism rate. [11]
  • 1983: New Mexico State Penitentiary college program: 15.5 percent program recidivism rate compared to 68 percent overall recidivism rate. [12]
  • 1986: Lebanon Correctional Institution of Ohio college program: 11 percent program recidivism rare compared to 30 percent recidivism rate for high school dropouts. [13]
  • 1986: Boston University of Massachusetts prison college program: 0 percent baccalaureate recidivism rate. [14]
  • 1990: Lorton Prison of the District of Columbia college program: 6 percent program recidivism rate compared to 40 percent average recidivism rate. [15]
  • 1991: New York Department of Correctional Services: post-secondary correctional education programs: 26 percent program recidivism rate compared to overall recidivism rate of 44 percent. [16]
  • 1994: "Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987": 5 percent earning college degrees recidivated compared to 40 percent overall recidivism rate. [17]
  • 1996: Texas Department of Corrections, Windham School System Analysis: Recidivism rates of various degree levels: Associate Degree 13.7 percent, Bachelors Degree 5.6 percent, Masters Degree 0 percent. [18]
  • 2001: "OCE/CEA Three State Recidivism Study": Former prisoners with no advanced education recidivate at a rate of approximately 66 percent within 3 to 5 years of release.  With attainment of a GED or high school diploma, the recidivism rate is reduced to roughly 46 percent.  With quality vocational training the recidivism rate is further reduced to around 30%.  And with post-secondary correctional education, the recidivism rate is slashed: Associates degree 13.7 to 20 percent; Bachelors degree 5.6 percent.  Masters degree 0 percent. [19]
  • 2001: Virginia Department of Correctional Education's Incarcerated Youth Offender Program: Incarcerated students who engaged in academic studies recidivated at a rate of 17.6 percent, inmate students who participated in vocational training recidivated at a rate of 24.2 percent, and non-participants recidivated at a rate of 29.3 percent.  Academic studies reduced recidivism rates by 39.9 percent, while vocational training reduced recidivism rates by 17.4 percent. [20]
  • 2002: Virginia Department of Correctional Education's Incarcerated Youth Offender Program: Incarcerated students who engaged in academic studies recidivated at a rate of 12.6 percent, inmate students who participated in vocational training recidivated at a rate of 11.1 percent, and non-participants recidivated at a rate of 25 percent.  Academic studies reduced recidivism rates by 49.6 percent, while vocational training reduced recidivism rates by 55.6 percent. [21]
  • 2002: "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994": 54.3 percent recidivism rate for correctional education participants, compared to 67.5 percent base recidivism rate for non-participants.  Correctional education resulted in a projected 13.2 percent reduction in recidivism rates. [22]
  • 2002: "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994": 38 percent recidivism rate for correctional education participants, compared to 51.8 percent base recidivism rate for non-participants.  Correctional education resulted in a projected 13.8 percent reduction in recidivism rates. [23]
  • 2011: New Mexico's Metro Detention Center: "There is consistency across the board in study after study that [prison] education works." [24]
  • 2011: "State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of American Prisons": 30.4 percent recidivism rate for correctional education participants, compared to 43.3 percent base recidivism rate for non-participants.  Correctional education resulted in a projected 12.9 percent reduction in recidivism rates. [25]

When the results of these studies are viewed in the context of traditional recidivism rates (which hovered around 45.4 percent in 1999 and 43.3 percent in 2004 [26] and have been reported to be as high as 67 to 80 percent when a five year term of monitoring is employed [27]), the effectiveness of correctional education becomes apparent.  Correctional education is significantly more effective than incarceration alone [28].  And while recidivism rates do vary depending on jurisdiction, study modality, qualifying criteria [29], study duration [30], and a plethora of other factors [31], all of the research confirms that correctional education does reduce recidivism significantly and does so cost-effectively [32].  John Esperian in the {Journal of Correctional Education} sums up the argument perfectly: "Prison-based education is the single most effective tool for lowering recidivism" [33].


Sources

1-Case, P. (2006).  Predicting risk time and probability: An assessment of prison education and recidivism.  Conference of the American Sociological Association.

2-Fabelo, T. (2002).  The impact of prison education on community reintegration of inmates: The Texas case.  Journal of Correctional Education, Vol. 53, No. 3.

3-Aos, S., Miller, M. & Drake, E. (2006).  Evidence-based public policy options to reduce future prison construction, criminal justice costs, and crime rates.  Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

4-Martin, M. (2009, June).  What happened to prison education programs?  Prison Legal News.

5-Thomas, F. (1974).  Narrative evaluation report on the institute for educational media technology.  Burlington Community College, NJ.

6-Thompson, J. (1976, July).  Report on follow-up evaluation survey of former inmate students of Alexander State Junior College.  Alexander City State Junior College, AL.

7-Blackburn, F. (1979).  The relationship between recidivism and participation in community college associate of arts degree program for incarcerated offenders.  Ed.D.  Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

8-Blumstein, A. & Cohen, J. (1979, November).  Control of selection effects in the evaluation of social problems.  Evaluation Quarterly, 583-608.

9-Gaither, C. (1980, May).  An evaluation of the Texas Department of Corrections' Junior College Program.  Monroe: Northeast Louisiana University.

10-Duguid, S. (1981).  Rehabilitation through education: A Canadian model.  In L. Morain (ed.), On Prison Education, Ottawa: Canadian Publishing Centre

11-Chase, L. & Dickover, R. (1983).  University education at Folsom Prison: An evaluation.  Journal of Correctional Education, 34: 92-95.

12-(1983).  Learning maketh the honest man.  Psychology Today, April: 77.

13-Holloway, J. & Moke, P. (1986).  Post-secondary correctional education: An evaluation of parole performance.  Wilmington, OH: Wilmington College.

14-Barker, E. (1986).  The liberal arts in the correctional setting: Education benefitting free men -- for those who are not presently free.  Paper presented at the Correctional Education Association Conference, Cincinnati, OH.

15-Lorton Prison College Program -- Annual Report.  (1990, November).  Division of Continuing Education, University of the District of Columbia.

16-Clark, D. (1991).  Analysis of return rates of the inmate college program participants.  New York Department of Correctional Services.  Albany, NY.

17-Harer, M. (1994).  Recidivism among federal prisoners released in 1987.  Federal Bureau of Prisons, Office of Research & Evaluation.

18-(1995).  The impact of correctional education programs on recidivism 1988-1994.  Office of Correctional Education, U.S. Department of Education.

19- Streurer, S., Smith, L., & Tracy, A. (September 30, 2001).  OCEA/CEA Three State Recidivism Study.  Submitted to the Office of Correctional Education, U.S. Department of Education.

20-Lichtenberger, E.J. & Onyewu, N. (2005).  Virginia Department of Correctional Education's Incarcerated Youth Offender Program: A historical analysis (No. 9).  Richmond, VA: Department of Correctional Education.

21-Ibid.

22-Langan, P.A. & Levin, D.J. (2002).  Recidivism of prisoners released in 1994.  NCJ 193427.

23-Ibid.

24-Pauls, C.E. (2011).  Student perceptions of the charter school experience at Metro Detention Center.  Masters Thesis, University of New Mexico.

25-Pew Center on the States.  (2011).  State of recidivism: The revolving door of American prisons.  Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts.

26-Ibid.

27-(2009).  Partnership between community colleges and prisons: Providing workforce education and training to reduce recidivism.  U.S. Department of Education, Office of Correctional Education.

28-(Winter, 1998).  Education as crime prevention.  Spectrum: The Journal of State Government, Vol. 71 on the 1997 report produced by the Center on Crime, Communities & Culture, Occasional Paper Series No. 2.

29-Ward, S.A. (2009).  Career and technical education in United States prisons: What have we learned?  Journal of Correctional Education, Vol. 60, No. 3.

30-Ibid.

31-Zoukis, C. (forthcoming, 2015).  College for Convicts.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.

32-Sofer, S. (2006, October).  Prison education: Is it worth it?  Corrections Today.

33-Esperian, J.H. (2010, December).  The effect of prison education programs on recidivism.  Journal of Correctional Education, Vol. 61.

A special thank you to Dr. Jon Marc Taylor, author of the Prisoners' Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd edition, (Prison Legal News, 2009) for providing a portion of the utilized research.