Describes how Indiana has worked to reduce recidivism through criminal justice policy reform, with a focus on the state’s investments in education and training for inmates and programmatic alignment across education, justice, and workforce systems.

“Because the social, economic, political, historical, and racial context that shapes the criminal justice system is both complex and extensive, individuals who have been incarcerated face limited opportunities—particularly for education and training—both during and after incarceration….Research has shown, however, that correctional education and training can significantly improve the outcomes of those returning to society. These positive outcomes are leading to increased federal and state momentum to improve postsecondary access for prisoners and are lifting this issue higher on reform agendas. Nonetheless, the education and training needs of prisoners are far more complex than what traditional postsecondary education…can meet, and linking those needs to training that articulates to post-release opportunities is essential for successful reentry. Building on the theme of continuity from incarceration to reentry, [a series of] briefs will highlight the continuous improvement stories of states that are moving toward this type of alignment. This brief will focus on Indiana” (p.2).

“Building reform
The need for a new approach

Like elsewhere, Indiana’s attention on criminal justice reform has stemmed from an exponentially growing prison population, which caused unsustainable overcrowding and increased demand on the state budget….Despite the increased spending on corrections and rehabilitation, nearly 40 percent of inmates released in 2008 were re-incarcerated within three years….In response, Indiana has made conscious efforts to reform its criminal justice system by expanding diversion practices and being more strategic about improving reentry outcomes, particularly by improving education and training opportunities.

Over 20,000 people are released from Indiana prisons each year, and they often face significant barriers in finding employment and/or accessing education and training opportunities that promote economic mobility. These barriers to employment and economic mobility have contributed to high rates of recidivism” (p.2-3).

In this brief, the authors first describe how Indiana has reformed policy to reduce recidivism through improved education and training opportunities for inmates. The authors then discuss reform progress and describe how the state has leveraged federal support. The brief concludes with future goals and directions for strengthening reentry programs.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

To reduce recidivism, Indiana made investments in education and training: “The Indiana Department of Correction responded to cuts in state financial aid by providing more career and technical education (CTE) and certification programs to increase employability….Additionally, because of the significant reductions in recidivism associated with post-release employment…the state made all educational programs focus on employment, intentionally shifting offerings to work-skills courses and certificate programs” (p.4). Indiana’s reform progress: “[T]he state allows inmates to earn time off their sentences upon completion of approved education programs. For completing a basic literacy and life skills program, GED program, or career/technical education program, inmates are awarded reductions of six months off their sentences. Completion of a high school diploma or associate degree grants up to one year off and completion of a bachelor’s degree awards earns up to two years off” (p.5). “The state [also] added capacity to its operations by leveraging federal resources,” such as Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I and II dollars, Perkins CTE funds, Department of Labor funding for apprenticeship programs, and Second Chance Pell funds (p.5-6). “Outcomes and continuity This progress in educational access has helped Indiana increase its momentum in connecting returning citizens to opportunities for education and training, as well as wraparound supports upon reentry. The state’s measurable successes…[in 2014-2015] include” the following: of 25,726 inmates, 5,336 were enrolled in academic programs, 2,499 enrolled in CTE, 1,850 completed a literacy program, 1,141 completed high school, and 1,969 completed a CTE program. Overall recidivism rates have declined, with three-year rates dropping to 36.9 percent in 2016” (p.7). “Looking ahead The…alignment across education, workforce, and justice systems in Indiana is indicative of strong and coordinated efforts to support reentry outcomes.…Recognizing the potential and critical role of correctional education in the push to reform, rehabilitate, and promote reentry success is a major step and a testament to the importance of aligning goals and systems to achieve outcomes.…The work taking place across Indiana offers a blueprint for implementation and a model for other states” (p.9). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)