Prison Education

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Proceedings of The National Conference On Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2009 University of Wisconsin La-Crosse La-Crosse, Wisconsin April 16 - 18, 2009

Prison Culture, Education, and Recidivism Rates
Caleb L. Fry and Lauren T. Rios Department of Anthropology Lake Tahoe Community College One College Drive South Lake Tahoe, California 96150 USA Faculty Advisor: Daryl G. Frazetti Abstract Given the number of inmates in the prison system and the high level of recidivism, it is important to seek out possible solutions to this growing problem. By implementing more educationally and vocationally oriented programs it is possible that current recidivism rates can be reduced, thereby offering some relief for existing overcrowding conditions. Studies have shown educational programs beyond the high school level, including college courses and vocational training, better prepare prisoners for success in life once they are released. They enter society more prepared and motivated to work towards a better future. This project examines how well general, as well as individualized educational programs motivate prisoners to alter their behaviors while still in prison and to develop a desire to succeed in society once they have left prison. It also investigates rates of recidivism with respect to those inmates that have participated in educational programs. Adult and juvenile prisoners of both sexes were studied, within prison systems at the local, state, and federal levels in California. Evaluation of past and present programs is included as it relates to the correlation between education and the prison culture. National data is offered for comparison along with a survey of both pro and con arguments regarding educational programs in the prison system. It is hoped that data resulting from this study will provide a better understanding of prison culture and will offer more viable solutions for the successful implementation and/or alteration of education programs, subsequently reducing recidivism. Keywords: Corrections, Education, Recidivism.

1. Introduction
Prior research supports that educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals’ aids in the overall preparation process for reentry into society and effectively reduces recidivism. This paper examines education as a solution to recidivism. Furthermore, it examines the effectiveness of education as it stands today and offers possible solutions for revisions to programs; addressing the needs of both inmates and society, thereby bridging the cultural disconnects that impedes the ability of inmates to more successfully re-enter society.

2. Background
Since the mid 19th century, education has been an integral part of the correctional rehabilitation system within the United States. The first programs were faith-based, offering spiritual enlightenment to inmates. This path of enlightenment through religious institutions remained the primary means of rehabilitation until the late 1800’s, when Zebulon R. Brockway introduced a new system of correctional education, one which remains the model in correctional facilities today¹. Brockway’s model shifted away from the standard religious models of the time, and instead focused on the relationship between the inmate and society with respect to the rehabilitative process. This way of thinking became the basis for the system of education we see in prison today. As a result, a variety of programs using this ideology are currently in place within the United States correctional system.

2.1 overview of programs
Although programs differ on federal, state, and local levels, as well as between institutions for males, females, and juveniles; most programs fall into five basic categories: • • • • • Adult Basic Education – acquisition of basic literacy skills GED certificate attainment - high school diploma equivalency Vocational training and preparation Life Skills – defined as practical living skills and cognitive development Post Secondary...
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