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 pro
blems.  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.