We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.


January 2009:

In September of 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which, among other “tough on crime” policies, prohibited awarding Pell Grants to individuals incarcerated in federal or state correctional facilities. This provision effectively left the responsibility to fund higher education programs in prison to the states. In New York State, former Governor Mario Cuomo continued state funding for postsecondary correctional education through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which awards educational grants to low-income students. In 1995 however, the first year George Pataki took office as governor, New York banned inmates from receiving TAP grants.1 Nationwide, nearly all the 350 postsecondary correctional education (PSCE) programs closed2—only four out of 70 remained open in New York—despite the widely held view among correction officials and experts in the field about the benefits of such programs.

The worth of in-prison college programs can be measured in several important ways, each having value for the criminal justice system and the larger community. Studies and conversations with formerly incarcerated people and program practitioners highlight the principal benefits of college programs in prison: reduced recidivism because of the enhanced problem-solving skills and greater opportunities for steady employment provided to inmates, safer and more manageable prison conditions, and a cost-effective option for improving public safety.

Statistical evidence from several highly regarded studies corroborates the Correctional Association’s position that college programming in prison is a highly effective tool in reducing recidivism. A 1991 study released by New York’s Department of Correctional Services found that inmates who earned a degree while incarcerated had a 26.4 percent recidivism rate whereas 44.6 percent of participants who did not earn a degree were returned to custody.3 Another influential study, published in 2004, Post-Secondary Correctional Education and Recidivism: A Meta-Analysis of Research Conducted 1990-1999, found that “inmates who participated in PSCE recidivated 22 percent of the time and those not participating in PSCE had a recidivism rate of 41 percent.”4

Interviews and observations from program participants and practitioners attest to the importance of college programs in prison. The comments made by men and women who are earning a living and building good lives back in their communities demonstrate the real value in post-secondary correctional education programs. Christina Voight, a former participant in the College Bound Program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women in Westchester, New York, said, “The people who got an education on the inside had the same problems when released as those who didn’t. But those without college kept falling while those who had an education got back up and kept going.”

Prison administrators, program practitioners, and incarcerated persons alike also recount the positive effects of college programs in prison: providing an incentive for good behavior; producing mature, well-spoken leadership who have a calming influence on other inmates and on correction officers; and, reducing the tension and violent interactions between inmates and staff and among inmates. Jamie Houston, Director of the Correctional Education Program at Indiana State University and former Assistant Warden in the Indiana Department of Correction, characterized inmates attending classes as the best-behaved population in a correctional facility, crediting college programs with creating an incentive to avoid conduct that will be written up as a disciplinary infraction.

In-prison college programs are also a cost-effective method of improving public safety. The cost differences in education versus incarceration in New York, plus the short- and longterm benefits of a better educated population, makes investment in higher education for incarcerated individuals and people in the community smart fiscal policy. One cost-benefit analysis found that the cost to the state per crime prevented by offering education to inmates is about $1,600; the cost per crime prevented by extending prison sentences is $2,800. In other words, “A $1 million investment in incarceration will prevent about 350 crimes, while that same 4 Chapell, investment in education will prevent more than 600 crimes. Correctional education is almost twice as cost effective as incarceration.”5

The Correctional Association selected six in-prison college programs in New York State and across the United States to examine what seems to be working in post-secondary correctional education:

For the remainder of this report: by A Report by the Correctional Association of New York

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