By Rachel L. West
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he will expand educational programs for inmates. His office issued a press release on February 16th that outlined the Governor’s plans:
“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new statewide initiative to give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to earn a college degree through funding college classes in prisons across New York. Studies have shown that investing in college education for prisoners dramatically decreased recidivism rates while saving tax dollars on incarceration costs. Those who earn a college degree while in prison are less likely to end up behind bars again, therefore decreasing the number of inmates in New York state prisons.” (Source)
The initiative will provide educational services in ten of the states prisons. Associates and Bachelor’s degree programs will be offered. A Request for Proposal will be issued and educational associations that offer accredited college programs will be able to apply.
Last summer both the United States Education and Justice departments touted the findings of a study conducted by the RAND Corporation which looked into the impact correction education programs have on recidivism rates. The studies findings back up Governor Cuomo’s justification for expanding prison college courses.Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs that Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults found the following:
- Inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 43% less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not participate in educational program.
- Inmates who took part in correctional education programs had a 13% higher post-incarceration employment rate than ones who did not participate.
- Correctional education programs are cost effective. The cost of educating a prisoner is less than the cost of re-incarceration.
You can read the entire report below.
Following the Governor’s announcement Anthony Papa, himself a beneficiary of correctional education programs, wrote a moving essay about his experience with prison education programs for the Huffington Post. Papa ended his piece by saying:
Upon my reentry into society I was employed with a law firm and became litigation paralegal. When I got my first job it helped me maintain my humanity and kept me walking on a straight and narrow road. It has been 17 years now and I know from personal experience that a college education offered to someone in prison is not only lifesaving it is life changing. (Source)
Governor Cuomo is already taking heat from many who object to the state funding educational services for prisoners. But studies have shown again and again that such programs benefit everyone involved. These programs do, in fact, lower recidivism rates. In the long run it saves money and on a much more personal level it gives prisoners a chance to turn their lives around and become productive members of society.
[gview file=”https://www.bja.gov/Publications/RAND_Correctional-Education-Meta-Analysis.pdf” save=”1″]