Prison education changes lives, reduces fallout, and increases employment. With the momentum of the prison abolition movement, prison programs in prison have increased. In 2023, enrolled students will be eligible for pell scholarships for the first time since 1994. Education is changing the game for those involved in the judiciary. Inmates participating in training programs have a 43% lower recidivism rate than their peers. Nationally, prisons offer or in some cases require university programs for inmates to obtain their GED certificate or diploma.
A recent study by Yale University and the bard prison initiative (BPI), a pioneering prison education program run by New York’s bard college of liberal arts, found that education lowers recidivism rates among racial groups. The BPI is open to inmates in six New York City prisons. Participants in the program largely reflect the demographics of the state’s prison population: disproportionately black and Latino.
Prison Education and the Effectiveness Programs Prove Their Potential:
Study co-author Matthew G.T. Denney, ph.D. A Yale student noted that Participation and intensity in programs like the bpi can break the cycle of poverty, lack of opportunity, and then the lack of socioeconomic mobility that keep recidivism rates high. Many people in prison did not have access to educational opportunities from the start. Investing in prison education can compensate for this inequality while improving public safety:
Additionally, every $ 1 invested in prison training programs translates into a $ 4-5 reduction in prison costs during the first three years after an inmate’s release. The families of prisoners also benefit. Children are more likely to go to college if their parents did.
College Prison Education Programs Are Growing by Example:
Prison education includes a variety of programs, covering basic literacy and art exhibition, GED preparation, vocational training, and college courses. These programs take place on the spot or by mail. The first repetitions of college programs in prison were all made by mail. This also happened during the closure of the prisons in the early stages of covid-19. But advocates say face-to-face lectures do a better job of developing critical thinking skills.
The impact of a prison education program, according to researchers behind the Yale/BPI study, is closely linked to its rigor. Increasing federal and public support can help increase the number of such programs. The study’s authors warn that tough and fast college prison programs may not have the same effect on relapse rates. The authors recommend that the programs maintain high standards behind bars as well as on campus.
The bard prison initiative is an example of high-quality prison education. Other national leaders include the John jay college of criminal Justice Prison-to-college pipeline program, Georgetown university prison scholars, New York university prison education program, and Wesleyan university center for prison education. While the number of colleges and community colleges providing education to inmates is growing, the Vera justice institute reports that only 35-42% of state prisons offer college-level courses to inmates.
Activists say colleges have a special duty to do this job. According to the Incarceration nations network, Universities have an important role to play in creating safer communities and, in turn, universities have a responsibility to provide continuing education opportunities to former offenders. The idea behind building pipelines from prison to college is to create a Continuum in which people who started training programs while incarcerated can continue their education outside.
Federal Financial Aid Once Again Available to Students in Prison:
After a quarter-century of the ban, Congress in December 2020 reauthorized the use of federal pell scholarships by students in prison. Beginning in 1965, individuals incarcerated in the United States were eligible for pell grants based on the need to pay college tuition while in prison. In the early 1990s, nearly 20 percent of federal inmates had attended college while in prison. But the violent crime and enforcement act of 1994 banned incarcerated students from receiving federal student assistance, resulting in the closure of many colleges.
By 2004, the percentage of inmates who attended college had halved. Spurred on by the prison abolition movement, federal aid will once again be available to prison students. For 64% of inmates in the United States, it already is:
- The department of education (ED) has expanded its second pell chance for awards year 2022-23.
- The pilot project provides pell grants to inmates at some federal and state prisons to demonstrate the value of college education in prison.
- Criminal convictions continue to limit eligibility for federal financial assistance.
- Drug Convictions no longer affect the eligibility of federal student aid.
- However, people convicted of sex offenses are not eligible for pell grants, either as a prisoner or after their release.
Polite but Inappropriate and Previously Imprisoned Professional Restrictions:
Prisoners participating in academic or professional programs are less likely to re-enter the judiciary and more likely to find work. However, the job in which they are trained does not always correspond to the job allowed by law. Every state, except the federal government, has laws that prevent people with criminal records from doing certain jobs. Known as Side effects, these laws prohibit it
Former inmates for certain forms of public work and services, such as public welfare benefits or public housing. These laws severely restrict access to health care, education, and public services to those who have been convicted in the past. For this reason, some colleges prevent enrolled or previously enrolled students from studying in areas that would eventually close them. Jessica Neptune, director of national engagement at bpi, told inside higher ed that this Box is problematic and creates more deadlocks.
The department of education is currently trying to Ensure that postgraduate institutions do not offer programs to students if state or federal laws prohibit, exempt, or prohibit previously incarcerated students from licensing or working. Alternatively, predatory colleges can enroll imprisoned students to redeem federal aid, only to deliver degrees that ex-prisoners cannot legally use.
However, the tide is changing, pointing to more opportunities for ex-prisoners to put their degrees to work. Since 2015, 38 states have eased or lifted licensing barriers for people with criminal records, according to the institute of justice.