“So far as is practicable,
the education of prisoners
shall be integrated with the educational system of the country, so that after their release, they may continue their education without difficulty.”
UN Nelson Mandela Rules
- Studies reveal that the overwhelming number of people in prison are the very people who were not given access to educational opportunities in the first place, due to systemic racism and poverty; had they been given such access they likely would not have ended up in prison. Educational programs behind bars are thus a way of righting the educational wrongs that society has inflicted on its poorest, most neglected members.
- Investing in higher education is a way of communicating both to incarcerated people and to society as a whole that people in prison are capable of and deserve more than vocational training; this, in turn, changes broader hearts and minds about the prison population and prison as a practice.
- Investing in education in prisons is an investment in public safety, workforce development and the betterment of communities both inside and outside. Those who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to return to prison after release than those who do not. Research has shown that the American public saves $5 in reimprisonment costs for every $1 it spends on prison education.
- Those who participate in academic or vocational programs obtain employment at a rate 13 percent higher than those who do not.
- The children, families and communities to which incarcerated students eventually return benefit also, as studies have shown that children are more likely to attend college when their parents have done so.
- 95 percent of the students from the Prison-to-College Pipeline in New York are currently employed and only 12.5 percent have been re-incarcerated, compared to 42 percent statewide.
- Despite its proven benefits, education programs—particularly higher education programs—for the incarcerated are woefully underfunded and thus acutely inadequate in the US and, especially, abroad. In South Africa, of approximately 161,000 people behind bars, the total number of people in prison who participated in any sort of formal education program in the 2015 academic year was a mere 14,113. In most EU countries, fewer than one-quarter of prisoners participate in education and training. In Scotland in 2010, 81 percent of prisoners lacked functional literacy and 71 percent lacked functional numeracy. A survey of Ugandan women prisoners showed that 32 percent had never been to school and in Jordan nearly a quarter of women interviewed in judicial detention were illiterate.