By: Michael Pierangelino
Pre-Release Education of Inmates and the Effects on Recidivism
Florida Prison inmates should be able to pursue their higher-education with federal funding in order to increase the chances of their success reentering society. The obstacles to that goal are immeasurable. The Florida Constitution excludes state or federal inmates from use of federal funds to continue with a higher-education. However, the conundrum is that education becomes a necessity to survive when society judges so sternly on our poor choices of the past. The author believes with each new achievement in education or trade school, the individual is fortified with self-confidence and sense of positive accomplishment, and asserts there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that inmates who continue a higher education are more likely to succeed in life and greatly reduce the risks of returning to prison. So the journey begins to examine the facts of what obstacles lie in the path of the education of inmates, and how we can best approach with a viable solution where everybody wins.
The laws vary from state to state, but here in sunny Florida, they have decided in 1011.81(3) of the Florida College System Program Fund of the Florida Constitution, “that no funds shall may be expended for the education of state or federal inmates.” This is a grave error in thinking, with all the successful programs that have been presented as evidence that education increase the chances of successful reentry and stabilized living. It is becoming a growing trend for states to get involved in providing reentry and transitional services. Two problems up to this point have been, no one cared if the programs worked, and no one ever takes blame for why it’s broken. From the looks of things, now there seems to be a bit more accountability on all sides of the fence, with State Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices working together. Their goals are twofold, to implement real programs that work to prevent recidivism, and improve public safety.
One of the first District Attorney funded programs called ComALERT, started in King’s County New York, presents a 44 percent lower risk of recidivating when comparing Graduates to control group members, while discharges had an 83.5 percent higher risk of returning to prison. The oddity about this program is that it is actually funded and run by the District Attorney’s Office. The ultimate focus of the program was that they did not want parolees going back to prison for senseless violations, when no danger was posed to the public by the individual. They understand that we need to start working with the solution not just sending these human beings back into an environment to be treated like dogs. Treat a man like a man and he will act like one, treat him like an animal, and that is what you get.
Prisoner education programs are subject to a considerable amount of public ridicule and political influence. Education was found to be considered a human right by the Council of Europe in 1989 (Recommendation No. (89)12) saying, a custodial sentence is meant to deprive the convicted of liberty, not essential activities of daily life. In a majority of offender population social inadequacy or illiteracy was found to be the driving force in the molding of their criminal mindset, due to a survival of the fittest mentality. (Forster, 1997).
Our past failures of incarceration and so called “treatment and corrections” have left us battling overcrowding and continually climbing crime rates and recidivism. However, it is possible to implement a system that actually reshapes theses minds, allowing the inmates to thrive in education, bettering themselves spiritually and mentally, bringing about inner healing and self-respect. The humility that must be felt in order to understand that we are not insignificant, unless we make ourselves significant. It is that very trick that so many die never figuring out, and so few have managed to fully master. The Bureau of Justice states: “Recidivism is a significant issue when one considers that over 630,000 prisoners are released each year and that more than 95% of all state prisoners will eventually be released from prison” (Norman, 2008). If we don’t do something to prevent recidivism from worsening the author feels it will become a strain on the economy, and lead to a darkening of our society for so much lost hope of the loved ones of those who return to that dark place behind the gates. They bare the cross of the incarcerated, and end-up doing the time too. So when you take these broken men and allow them to do something positive and useful with their life, things take on a new meaning. Not only for the inmate, but the family that loves them and sees their change, and we then restore hope to the hopeless, in effect healing the community.
Although there are many great aspects of educating inmates, the important thing to focus on is what evidence suggests, which is there is hope for educational programs to have a positive effect of recidivism. High quality research studies show a 43 percent decrease in base- line for the odds of recidivating inmates, than those who did not graduate (Hynes, 2008). Wilson, Gallager, and MacKenzie (2000) assert that inmates who participate in education programs reduces the recidivism rate significantly. It is imperative that we understand the necessities involved with creating awareness about this issue. There is positive outcome when the prisoners are given a chance to prove to themselves and their doubters that they can achieve great things. It creates a sense of accomplishment and well-being inside them that carries out into other areas of life. The problem lies not within the prisoners, but within the correctional institutions.
There are those who would take advantage of the public’s ignorant bliss, and need to feel safe, in order to line their own pockets with cash. The corrections system is ran by possibly one of the most lucrative, diabolical, twisted ring of corporate and political bedfellows known to man. There are also those who would have you believe that they are there to serve and protect, yet they are the real pushers, extortionists, and pimps. These are the cancers that would have you believe that they are distributing a program as instructed, but under the guise of performing a public service they are robbing the people blind without remorse or retaliation for their wrong-doings.
Let us put the evil-doers and corrupt politicians aside to get down to the numbers logic of it all. “The average annual cost of correctional education programs per inmate participant was $1,400 and $1,744, respectively (Louis, 2013). According to Pew National Trust’s most recent national estimate of recidivism found out of 41 states: 43.3 percent for individuals who did not receive correctional education, and 30.4 percent for who those did—a risk difference of 12.9 percentage points in estimated meta-analysis (Louis, 2013). When evaluating direct costs of correctional education programs and three-year re-incarceration rates using a hypothetical group of 100 inmates, the three-year re-incarceration costs for those who did not receive education would be between $2.94 million and $3.25 million (Louis, 2013). Considering that the costs of providing education to this group of 100 inmates would range from $140,000 to $174,400; therefore concluding that correctional education programs appears to be cost-effective when compared with the cost of re-incarceration (Louis, 2013).
Through higher-education and better understanding we can begin to perpetuate change in the world through our actions, and the lessons we pass on to our children. Maybe not this lifetime, but perhaps our children’s children will see a brighter day where warehousing people is not a business. It’s time to start investing in the good of human-kind in order to promote our inherent sense of greatness, and empower the people again, to make their own choices in life. Maybe if we invest in the potentiality of ex-offenders, they will flourish. Through proper guidance, cognitive behavioral techniques, positivity, and teaching them structure, the changes can foster growth and development of the individual as well as the community. Ultimately building a better world by building better people.
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Hynes, Charles J. 2008. ComALERT: A Prosecutor’s Collaborative Model for Ensuring
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Accessed on (Oct 27, 2013) http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html
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