Educational Programs in Correctional Institutions

Education opens the gates to a better future. A future where one has a voice and restored self-esteem. Education programs in correctional institutions provide the inmates with an opportunity to acquire skills that they will need to re-integrate back to society once their prison terms are over. The education programs range from secondary instruction, which gives those who dropped at the high school level a chance to attain a college degree and other basic skills, to vocational training.

Correctional education include General Education Development (GED) and certification, college coursework, Adult Basic Education (ABE), apprenticeship and vocational training such as tailoring and masonry (Newton, 2018). Having a certificate proves that the individual has achieved basic knowledge and skills in the specific subject studied, and makes it easier to get a job upon release other than being idle and ending up being reconvicted.

Carlson, (2018) notes that once incarcerated individuals complete their sentence, integration back to society becomes difficult since they have a criminal record burden, no marketable skills, and support, may most likely re-engage in illegal activities, and end up in prison again. Although education in prisons may not be the solution to criminal activities, the assumption is that it gives the inmates basic skills and knowledge enabling most of them to seek employment and or create self-employment so that they may not end up in prison again. Therefore, correctional education intends to reduce recidivism among inmates.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), close to half of the prisoners released are re-arrested within eight years. Individuals below 21 years have the highest rate as compared to other age groups. Those who dropped at high school level top the rate at 60.4 percent compared to 19.1 percent of those who attained a college degree. Young adults, therefore, have a high likelihood of recidivating, and, according to the high percentage of undereducated offenders, prison education offers an excellent opportunity to these inmates. The RAND Corporation report (2017) also noted that individuals who go through prison education are 43 percent less likely to be re-arrested. Apart from recidivism, educational programs also provide outcomes that can be passed to the next generation. For instance, a child raised by educated parents is less likely to engage in criminal activities than a child brought up by undereducated parents.

Review of Literature

Mass imprisonment turns out to be one of the social problems the U.S is facing. This is indicated by statistics showing the U.S as the leading country globally, with most of its citizens residing in prison. A higher percentage of the inmates have low academic levels, high illiteracy, and disability, which increases their likelihood of incarceration. Unfortunately, upon completion of the prison sentence without having undergone the education programs, these inmates come out with no more skills to fit in the society and re-offend.

The OCE/CEA Recidivism Study, focused on pre-released male prisoners who had taken part in educational programs from prison in Maryland, and a similar group from a medium prison in Minnesota, and another group from Ohio Large prison. Based on the categories of re-convicted, re-arrested, and re-incarcerated, for each state, those who had participated in the education programs had reduced re-offending rates and increased employment rates compared to the other matched groups. From this study, educational programs in correctional institutions reduce the risk of re-offending. Putting more effort into educating prisoners prevented the reconviction for many prisoners. From the study, one million dollars spent on educating prisoners correlated to 600 crimes prevented compared to one million spent on incarceration and prevented only 350 crimes.

Fogarty, (2018) argues that college education increases the chances of employment by 13%. This further suggests that educational programs cut the cost for each educated inmate as it is cheaper than re-incarceration. Pelletier’s, (2019) study revealed that employment chances were increased by 11.5% on prisoners who attained a post-secondary degree compared to those who only had a high school education. Post-secondary education also had reduced rates of reconviction, re-arrest, re-incarceration, and revocation among released prisoners. Carlson (2018), estimates 2.3 million U. S citizens who are the minority, undereducated, and low social income are in prison while 4.7 million are on parole or probation. This indicates incarceration increase by 500% since 1972, and, on the other end, an increase in the annual cost to the nation. It further adds that it is more costly to maintain a prisoner who will be back again after three to eight years of release. Therefore, it is better to educate the prisoner and reduce the chances of being convicted again.

According to a study conducted by RAND Corporation (2017), the reconviction rate is lower in individuals who have gone through education programs in prison. Further analysis of documents by the corporation on the relation between re-offending and unemployment suggests that educational programs in prison are related to lower chances of recidivism and increases the likelihood of employment and self-employment. Since individuals below 21 years have a higher likelihood of recidivism, they can gain much from the education programs, enhance their self-esteem and gain self-awareness. Education programs in prison have had a success in reforming inmates to better people. In 2017 The New York Government awarded money to New York University and Cornell University to offer education in prisons. Other than the State, Individuals have also played a role in ensuring reforms within the prisons, for example Petey Greene Program send experienced volunteers to educate prisoners aiming at achieving a post-secondary degree and advocating for prison education. Bender (2018). Often, factors such as financial bankruptcy and adverse family situation attribute to criminal acts. Therefore, when an inmate is given an opportunity to reform such as through education, it dawns upon themselves to make a commitment to a better life. Other than reducing recidivism rates, post-secondary education enhances discipline and self-awareness among the participants and improves the quality of relationship between the inmates and correctional officers. Educational programs stand out to have short and long-term benefits to the inmates and party involved. Therefore, Investing in educating inmates benefits the society. It ensures every person has an opportunity to thrive despite their past.

Problem Statement and Theoretical Framework

  • Problem Statement: Inmates who do not engage in education programs may have high chances of recidivating.
  • Theory: Education programs should equip prisoners with the basic skills and knowledge needed to prevent recidivism.

Variables and Hypothesis

The independent variable is Educational Programs while the dependent variable is the average recidivism rate. The hypothesis is inmates who engage in the educational programs have a lower likelihood of recidivism than those who have not participated in the educational programs.


Carlson, J. R. (2018). Prison nurseries: A way to reduce recidivism. The Prison Journal, 98(6), 760-775.

Fogarty, J., & Giles, M. (2018). Recidivism and education revisited: Evidence for the USA (No. 1784-2018-5005).

Newton, D., Day, A., Giles, M., Wodak, J., Graffam, J., & Baldry, E. (2018). The impact of vocational education and training programs on recidivism: A systematic review of current experimental evidence. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 62(1), 187-207.

Pelletier, E., & Evans, D. (2019). Beyond recidivism. Journal of Correctional Education (1974-), 70(2), 49-68.

Prigg, C., & Zoukis, C. (2017). Prison education in America: The history and the promise. Prison Education.

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ChalkyPapers. "Educational Programs in Correctional Institutions." September 23, 2022.