The Great Escape: Education is the Ticket to Freedom

Most of us know we will be released from prison. One day, sooner or later, we will be out on the street again. The question is: will that be a one-way trip? Will each of us leave the prison world never to return? To do that, we must know how to survive – no, not survive, succeed – when we re-enter society.
Statistics are stacked against us. Most prisoners get out and, eventually, most of us find ourselves back in. There are many reasons for the high rate of recidivism (the return of ex-prisoners to incarceration), but studies consistently show that the primary cause is unemployment. On the outside you need a job to eat. To have a place to live. To support your family. To hold your head high and know you can handle freedom.
But jobs are hard to come by when you carry a prison record with you. Still, we can’t use that as an excuse. With good skills and education – solid vocational training at the very least or, even better, an advanced degree – released prisoners can overcome a prison record. In fact – and this is the good news – 75% of college-educated ex-convicts are able to surmount the stigma of their criminal record to find stable employment.1

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College for Convicts? A Radical Solution for Maximum Security

The national deficit is a hot topic.; Everyone agrees we have to spend less and cut the budget.; Where people do not agree is on what to cut, what life-sustaining programs have to go, and what groups of people will get hurt.; It’s a question of priorities.; What is more important: our national education system?; The military?; Health Care?; We can argue ad infinitum.

But if we said there was a way to save approximately $60 billion (that’s billion with a “b”!) every year without cutting existing programs, a way to save $60 billion while at the same time improving public safety and the welfare of society, would anyone listen? It has been proposed.

There are dozens of articles out there, many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, and many studies, all of which show it can be done:By providing post-secondary and academic education to prisoners, we can cut $60 billion from our national budget every year.; And maybe a lot more.;; ;It’s a statement that evokes a lot of controversy.; The idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because the public is often unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.; Why, people ask, should American taxpayers pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school?; It doesn’t seem fair.; Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should criminals get it for free?;; ;It’s a visceral and understandable reaction. ;And besides, say some opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve less as a deterrent to crime.1Others believe that punishment for crime should entail a loss of valuable privileges like education. Therefore, providing education, free, to a law-breaking individual seems to them like a mockery of justice.

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