The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial – Inmates with education save money

Brittany Luman/The Collegian
Brittany Luman/The Collegian

Educating inmates further than a GED or a high school diploma might cost a little more, but it pays off in a really big way. And the federal government should be assisting these programs much more.

According to a study conducted by The Sentencing Project, 2.2 million people sit behind bars, a 500 percent increase over a 30-year span.

Nearly 80 percent of that population serves short sentences and will be released back into society. To assist with their return to life on the outside, many prisons are looking to include postsecondary programs.

Besides the obvious reason of prisoners being overlooked in the application process, one of the factors was related to a lack of education and relative job skills.

Brittany Luman/The Collegian
Brittany Luman/The Collegian

A study conducted by the University of Missouri on the state’s prisons found they could save just over $20 million by reducing the re-incarceration rate. The study went on to say that getting a full-time job helped with keeping the former inmates out of the system. And getting a full-time job is related to the level of education they’ve acquired.

Most full-time jobs require applicants to have more than just a high school diploma. With help from these postsecondary programs, inmates will get the chance to earn a college degree free of charge.

And that isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s probably the most humane and monetarily sound solution to the problem of increasing re-entry rates in America.

National Institute of Justice found that 67 percent of all inmates released from prison will end up back behind bars within three years. Of course, many environmental factors contribute to this including drug addiction, family life and the ability to secure a job.

Maintaining a job is vital because it’s not only motivational to make money to support oneself, but it can keep newly released inmates on steady ground, especially if they’re released to parole supervision.

The most interesting part of this idea is that in the 1970s, most of the prisons in the country had what they refer to as postsecondary programs. According to Forbes, the U.S. had 350 programs in 37 states by 1990. This number dwindled to 12 prisons nationwide in 2005.

It’s not a foreign concept or even a far-fetched idea that the U.S. hasn’t had in place before. And it’s becoming an important initiative in prison reform to the Obama administration.

In July, The Washington Post reported two members of Obama’s Cabinet met with inmates in Baltimore. At this prison, they took classes through a privately funded college program. Many of the inmates felt like this was a second chance to turn things around.

Most of these programs are privately funded or in partnership with colleges. State-run prisons in Ithaca, New York, link up with Cornell University.

Yes, educating inmates for free is costly and can in cases trickle down to taxpayers to foot the bill.

It’s far more important that when inmates are assimilated into society, they feel as if they have a fighting chance at making it on the outside.

Landing a steady job is the first step on that journey, and depending on what other environmental factors they already have, that could be one less thing to worry about.

And if the federal government can help lift that burden, there’s no telling what kind of positive effects society can experience from that.

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