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According to the Pew Center on the States, over the last two decades US spending on corrections has increased from $10 billion to $52 billion annually, an increase of over 500% since the mid-1980s. This is due to a number of factors. One overriding factor concerns the issue of recidivism which is fostered through a lack of education and results in a dearth of viable employment opportunities for prisoners in the real world. Simply stated, if ex-prisoners cannot compete in the job market when they get out of prison, they will go back into the underground street economy in order to make a living.

In the tough-on-crime 1990s educational and rehabilitative programs were cut. Prisoners were no longer eligible for Pell Grants. This was put into effect by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1993 and the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1994. Without funding prison education programs screeched to a halt. Within three weeks of the passing of this legislation, over 350 in-prison college and vocational programs collapsed, leaving their students with nothing to do but become engulfed in the toxic prison culture.

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