The U.S. Department of Education has released a new report concerning the creation of a correctional education reentry model that will bring community-based educational and job training programs into a correctional setting in an effort to provide inmates with the skills they need to be employment-ready when they are released.
The report, A Reentry Education Model: Supporting Education and Career Advancement for Low-Skill Individuals in Corrections, offers some statistics on why this model is necessary:
More than 700,000 incarcerated individuals leave federal and state prisons each year (Guerino, Harrison, and Sabol 2012), making reentry into the community a major concern for federal, state, and local governments.
Within three years of release, four out of 10 prisoners will have committed new crimes or violated the terms of their release and be reincarcerated (The Pew Center on the States 2011). This cycle of catch-and-release costs states more than $50 billion annually (National Association of State Budget Officers 2011).
Approximately 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent, and these children are more likely to be expelled or suspended from school than children without an incarcerated parent.
One in three black men, one in eight white men, and one in 14 Hispanic men between the ages of 20 and 34 without a high school credential are incarcerated.
Formerly incarcerated men earn approximately 11 percent less per hour and 40 percent less per year than those who have never been incarcerated.
Approximately 40 percent of federal and state prisoners lack a high school credential, compared to less than 20 percent of the general population. Even fewer have completed any college course work (Greenberg, Dunleavy, and Kutner 2007).
Many prisoners also have limited work experience and struggle to find employment once released (Gould, Weinberg, and Mustard 2002; Yahner and Visher 2008). They also typically have cognitive deficits, which are associated with criminal behavior (Andrews et al. 1990; MacKenzie 2006; MacKenzie 2012).
The report adds that many members of the community, politicians and even correctional officials have indicated that they do not believe that inmates should receive educational classes, particularly post-secondary educational opportunities. But, research has shown that access to educational and job-training programs have been shown to reduce recidivism.
So, what can be done to improve educational opportunities for inmates? A Reentry Education Model suggests:
Strengthening and aligning education services provided in correctional institutions and the community to support successful movement between the two.
Establishing a strong program infrastructure to support and improve education services.
Ensuring education is well integrated into the corrections system by making it a critical component of intake and prerelease processes and closely linking it to support and employment services.
Encouraging individuals to identify and achieve education and career goals, while recognizing that their education path is not linear or uniform.
The Reentry Education Model report can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below.