Describes the role correctional education plays in reducing recidivism in the United States and presents information on the types of education programs offered, state and federal funding sources, and the continuum of education on release.

“With record levels of men and women incarcerated—totaling 2.2 million—the United States places more people in prison at a higher rate than any other developed nation.…For low-income communities, the disparities are even more [pronounced]. In 2014, the median annual income for people prior to incarceration was less than $20,000. Furthermore, Blacks and Latinos, who are disproportionately impacted by poverty, also have the highest rates of imprisonment and account for more than half of all prisoners. However, the context surrounding this [issue] tells a much larger story, which is partly rooted in educational inequities. More than two-thirds of state prison inmates do not have a high school diploma” (p.1).

“Collateral and systemic barriers, such as disenfranchisement,…discrimination in housing and public benefits access, and biases in hiring, along with impediments to educational opportunities, make it especially difficult for returning citizens to gain employment, stability, and an overall fair chance upon reentry. These diminished economic opportunities contribute to the cycle of recidivism, resulting in three-quarters of returning citizens re-offending within five years” (p.1).

“[T]his report examines correctional education, as it is a critical aspect of the complex…system that can make a real difference in reversing this…cycle [of recidivism]. While correctional education and training is by no means a panacea…, it can play an important role in improving the educational and employment trajectories of the returning citizens who face greatly restricted opportunities to participate in our economic mainstream. While the quality and accessibility of correctional education and training opportunities vary largely across states, as does the consistency of accessible and well-articulated education and training opportunities for returning citizens upon release, there is room for significant innovation and improvement. Doing so will require reforms across multiple systems to address these disparities. With that in mind, [the authors] focus on the state of correctional education funding streams, program offerings, and the continuum of education and training opportunities upon release” (p.2). The report draws on information from external research and presents a number of case studies.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: From Incarceration to Reentry: A Look at Trends, Gaps, and Opportunities in Correctional Education and Training

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors describe several aspects of correctional education and training. Types of programs. The authors note that “[t]he diverse range of educational attainment levels among incarcerated individuals, as well as their varying cognitive abilities and English language skills, requires a wide array of state correctional education programs. Many states have responded by offering a number of services” including adult education, adult postsecondary education, career and technical education, and special education (p.5). “The most common types of services offered are adult basic education and career and technical education” (p.5). Funding. “States generally use a blend of state and federal dollars for correctional education. Although overall corrections expenditures have increased with the prison population, funding for correctional education has not always kept pace….[T]here is a large degree of variation in the sources and levels of statewide correctional education funding” (p.7). At the federal level, “[t]hree…departments distribute funding for correctional education and training in some form: the U.S Department of Education…, the U.S. Department of Labor…, and the U.S. Department of Justice” (p.10). These agencies fund programs such as the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Improved Reentry Education Program, Reentry Employment Opportunities Program, and the Second Chance Act (p.13). “Connecting correctional education and training to reentry” (p.14). “Although some states and institutions have implemented promising practices to support the continuity of education and training opportunities between incarceration and reentry, in many cases returning citizens still face a discontinuous and inconsistent system….From the states that have shown leadership in this field, several consistent themes emerge as models of best practice:” career pathways, integrated education and training, and partnerships (p.17-18). The authors conclude that “the road to successful reentry must begin during incarceration and continue after individuals return to society” and recommend that “[i]n addition, the federal government could provide states information and incentives to improve current educational practices inside prisons to include more innovative offerings and partnerships using Integrated Education and Training and Career Pathways” (p.20). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)