The Economic Impact and Correlation between Correctional Education and Recidivism
By: Michael Guido Pierangelino (2013)
In this instance the author will be examining the correlating relationship between correctional education and recidivism, and how it impacts the US Economy. Recidivism as it is referred to in this paper, is the proportions of persons released from prison who are rearrested, re-convicted, and sent back to prison within a specific period of time. This issue is important, because if people cannot escape the system, eventually it becomes overrun, necessitating construction of new prisons, to have a place for all the new offenders, as well as those returning. The average annual cost to incarcerate an inmate is substantial, some come back into the system two times in three years. The education costs are nominal in comparison, and would allow for a positive and confidence-building activity to be introduced into the inmate’s cold dark world. If we educate and prepare them for societal obligations and real-life responsibilities, then we no longer create worse animals; we build better people out of men who forgot what it was like to be treated like a human being. This allows these men to capture their own destiny along with the ability to break the cycle of recidivism, and in that same token save the system hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Currently the United States is known to incarcerate more of its population than any country in the world (Schmitt, 2010). The incarceration rate in 2008 was 753 per 100,000 people, that’s over 2.3 million Americans, 240 percent higher than in1980 (Schmitt, 2010). That means that in 2008 one out of every 48 men of working-age was in prison or jail. Sixty percent of them were non-violent offenders. In that year government spent 75 billion on corrections, which went mostly for incarceration (Schmitt, 2010). At an average cost of $28,000 to $31,000 dollars a year per inmate, it is clear how this issue can make or break a budget (Bozick, 2103). Since the government is so concerned over debt ceilings and spending cuts, maybe they should consider some real alternatives to imprisoning good people for petty crimes.
There are programs that present alternatives to prison. Simply reducing the non-violent offender population in prisons by half, would allow for 16.9 billion per year to be shaved off that large 75 billion dollar bill for corrections (Schmitt, 2010). Oregon implemented a program that freed up a quarter of its correctional bed space, by instituting for non-violent offenders a “new school” instead of a “no tolerance” approach to violations. Offenders face a variety of graduated communal sanctions, including short-term jail stays to holding them accountable for their actions. Results of the Pew/ASCA survey shows 5.9 percent of offenders in Oregon released in 1999 and only 3.3 percent of the 2004 cohort committed technical violations resulting in their return to prison (Schmitt, 2010). This trend to implement evidence based practices has taken effect across the country, as more evidence based research reveals more positive socioeconomic results.
There are those states who become the exception to the rule. According to 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.” So, until there is an amendment to this law, other options have to be accessed in order to provide higher-education to inmates, most probably charities or private funding. This is a problem that has no easy solution. However, if the government invests in these efficient programs that fruit amazing and undeniable results, the positive change it perpetuates, will have an exponential reduction of the recidivism rate. The financial resources it would free up are phenomenal, and with that money new schools could be built teachers could get better salaries, new programs and housing for inmates being released. Some of that money could go towards transitional programs, which have been found to be effective in decreasing chances of recidivism.
Transition centers provide housing to inmates being released without a place to register as “home”. They prevent a person from being homeless upon release, and allow for them to receive training and educational services, while being under the care of professionals trained to facilitate their successful reentry. Some transition centers are more like work release centers where the occupants are still in prison and just go to work every day, with furlough on the weekends to see their families for eight hours. This is a good incentive for inmates to behave well and participate in programs. Signing up for classes in prison can be difficult, the lists are often very long. But at transition centers the inmates can receive more individual attention with the smaller population, and more casual atmosphere. Transition centers should become the new model for non-violent criminals with three to five year sentences. The inmates can work and go to school while paying off their fines and court cost. In this environment they can be better prepared to take on the responsibilities that await when they are released.
There must be a call to evaluate every measure of what is seen as the mean in the equation for successful reentry. Approximately 68 percent of state prison inmates do not possess a high-school diploma (Louis, 2013). A cold fact that resonates when one considers how difficult life can be without an education in today’s world. On top of the educational barrier, a criminal record that disqualifies the client from looking at state or government positions, which is a third of the available opportunities. In addition, there is the employer’s prejudicial bias once he does a background check which reveals criminal infractions. The company policy may not cause an issue, but when it comes to the human mind, it sees what it wants to see. If the employer has a predisposed dislike of felons, he more than likely will not give an ex-offender a chance to prove one’s self. This is one reason why it is so important to acquire special knowledge that will add to their value and appeal.
Completion of most trade schools leaves the inmate with a specific job skill in high demand. Research has shown that specificity sells, and by the clients arming themselves with the knowledge and skill-sets that are in shortage, they gain a comparative advantage. Vocational training and postsecondary education alone, increase the chance of employment by 28 percent, which alone is a significant enough reason to implement more of these programs (Louis, 2013). For the human-race to continue to progress, it must be united in the purpose to improve the overall quality of life. By investing in these programs not only is the quality of life improved for the clients, but for their families, and the community. Through the restructuring of the correctional system, the author believes there is hope for the balancing the budget, and to restore the innate ability to thrive off one’s dreams. This is only possible with a stern review of corrections policy, and a new school approach to case management.
Evidence suggest through proactive case management, that change in criminal behavioral patterns is possible (Ostermann, 2013). Through assessing the inmate’s skill-sets and further understanding their criminogenic needs, a multi-dimensional composite is formed. Then based on personal interests and natural abilities, proceed to develop a case plan that is tailored to maximize strength, minimize weakness, and address specific high risk factors, that pose a threat to the client’s successful integration back into society. Once the client’s confidence level is restored, they will obtain higher goals, each adding value to their resume and character. When clients believe in themselves, and receive reward for their hard work, it builds integrity, and promotes healthy living. This strengthens the economy two fold, by adding a tax-paying, bill paying citizen to the society, rather than placing them behind bars, to become a drain on the budget. There is no sense in bringing financial ruin to the family that depends on them, just to satisfy the corporate greed to make a business out of warehousing people.
The financial result of recidivism alone is enough to warrant immediate action taken to reduce needless correctional spending. In a hypothetical study using a pool of 100 inmates, it was estimated that the costs of a three-year re-incarceration was between $2.94 million and $3.25 million for those who did not receive correctional education (Louis, 2013). The cost to provide education to the same group of 100 inmates ranges from $140,000 to $174,400(Louis, 2013). These numbers don’t lie, providing correctional education is the most cost-effective method, compared to the cost of re-incarceration (Louis, 2013). Many of these studies have only concluded just over the last few years, and though many states are beginning to take notice, the trend is still catching. It is necessary for government to recognize the importance of these statistics, and act immediately in order to prevent our economy from certain collapse due to prehistoric policies and procedures that violate human rights, and promote the incarceration of everyday citizens for nominal criminal infractions.
In conclusion the author feels the evidence presents effective solutions to many of the correctional system’s current problems. Consider the potential to heal the community, while creating opportunity for growth and development in for the individual, where the system once cultivated negativity and reinforced failure. The economic benefits of correctional education make it hard to resist when proposing the government saves five dollars for every dollar invested (Louis, 2013). It would make good sense to implement supervision over non-violent offenders, placing them on electronic monitoring. Additionally, being home with where they can earn a living to support their families strengthens the economy. The money the spent circulates throughout the community, and the supervision cost for GPS monitoring create a revenue for the county and state, as well as shaving billions from the budget on a national scale for incarceration.
Everybody wins, but that doesn’t mean that the politicians will have the common-sense to see it.
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