RAND Corp. study calls for greater attention to inmate education

classroom-381900_640In its “How Effective is Correctional Education, and Where do We Go From Here?” research report, the RAND Corp. evaluated the content, funding and future of education programs at correctional facilities across the U.S.

Through funding from the Second Chance Act of 2007, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice engaged RAND Corp. to research the status of correctional education. The results, laid out in this thought-provoking report released last year, call for more attention and research to be dedicated to this crucial issue.

With 40% of the 700,000 people who are released from federal and state prisons each year reincarcerated within three years, something has to be done – and that something should start with education and vocational programs that will help give them the skills they need to gain employment and stay out of prison, the study contends.

RAND researchers looked at four types of education: instruction in such basic skills as reading, writing and arithmetic; high school education to prepare for the GED; vocational education; and college level classes that could lead to an A.A. or B.A. degree. One requirement to be considered was that the education program take place – at least in part – within a correctional facility.

In evaluating 58 previous empirical research studies – selected from 1,112 conducted between 1980 and 2011 – the RAND researchers discovered that “on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had a 43% lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not.”

They also found that “the odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in correctional education (either academic or vocational/career and technical education programs) were 13% higher than the odds for those who did not.”

The study included the RAND Correctional Education Survey, a web-based survey of correctional education directors in all 50 states conducted in July 2013. Representatives of 46 out of the 50 states responded.

The survey revealed that:

  • Most states provide basic education, vocational educational/CTE programs and GED courses.
  • 32 states provide secondary and post-secondary education.
  • 24 states have a mandatory education participation requirement for those without a high school diploma or GED.

In spite of the critical need for computer skills to get work these days, many states’ correctional facilities are lacking in computer training:

  • 39 states offer desktop computers and 17 states laptops for use for instructional purposes.
  • 24 states offer Microsoft Office certification.
  • 26 states prevent inmate students from access to Internet technology.

After studying data and the educational situations in 46 states, the RAND Corp. came up with a series of recommendations that include:

  • Determine what works and what doesn’t work so that “policymakers and state correctional education directors can make informed trade-offs in budget discussions.”
  • Encourage governments and nonprofits to fund “evaluations of programs that illustrate different educational instructional models, that are trying innovative strategies to implement technology and leverage distance learning in the classroom, and are analyzing what lessons from the larger literature on adult education may be applied to correctional education.“
  • “Conduct new research on instructional quality in correctional education settings and on ways to leverage computer technology to enhance instruction.”
  • “Conduct a summit at the state and federal levels with private industry about what opportunities are available to formerly incarcerated individuals and what skills will be needed in the future.”

For more information about the nonprofit RAND Corp. and the research it does visit its website.

 

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