With states finally giving up on the harsh sentencing policies that were popular among the end of the last century, which drove up prison costs and sent way too many people to jail for far too long, for mild offenses, however, now many people are trying to revamp prison and send drug addicts to treatment rather than send them to jail. While also individuals trying to do a complete overhaul of the parole system that use to send people back to prison for technical violations.
Now, the most effective way to keep returning offenders, low is once they leave the prison give them job skills that will make them marketable to employers; which in return, means reviving the prison education programs that were shut down in the early 1990s, due to the state and federal legislator cuts to prove how tough they really were on crime.
President Obama helped point the country in the right direction last year by building a pilot program that will allow a small number of inmates to receive the federal Pell Grants to take college courses while in prison. The program will include colleges that want to start running prison education programs or colleges that already run a prison education program. As of today, there are nearly 200 schools out of 47 stats that are interested in the prison program.
Sadly, not every state is interested in going along with these once failed policies. For example, in New York, Legislature led Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to withdraw a logical 2014 proposal that would fund $1 million to the state corrections budget that is $2.8 billion to finance the prison education programs. While others in the Legislature debated that the entire proposal was a slap in the face to the law-abiding citizens, when in fact, it was a cost effective proposal in the long run.
In New York, taxpayers will pay $60,000 per inmate, which can be quite costly when nearly 40 percent of released inmates will be back in prison in the next three years. However, inmates who attend college classes before they are released into society do much better than those who don’t. The prison education program was created by Bard College in 2001. They have a 4 percent recidivism rate. Out of that 4 percent, nearly 2.5 percent earned degrees behind bars, which will end up saving the taxpayers nearly $4 to $5 in re-imprisonment costs for every $1 that goes towards prison education.
According to the new report from the New York State Bar Association, in the early 90s, there were 70 prison education programs, and in 2004 there were only 4 programs left. In 1991, there were 1,078 inmates that received a college degree while in prison to 141 inmates that received a college education in 2011. The statistics show that nearly 40 percent of inmates do not even have a high school diploma. That is why the report calls on the state to bring academic and vocational programs in prison to help prepare the inmates for life after prison.
Do you think we should have education programs in our prisons? I would love to hear your opinions in the comment section below!