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Building Them Up: Job Skills and Prison Education

By Christopher Zoukis

A simple online search will reveal a plethora of prison education programs designed to equip prisoners with skills for life after prison.  From community-based organizations to universities, there has been a growing consensus that releasing people from prison back into society without any training or education is likely to result in repeat offenses and subsequent jail time.  Yet in tough economic times, there is the pressing need to justify every expense and every program.  With education cuts in progress from coast to coast, many experts believe that decreasing funding for prison education programs is simply not an educated option.

The Need for Prison Education

According to Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education, 60 percent of released inmates return to prison (wesleyan.edu/cpe/about/whycip.html).  The center asserts that “severely reduced employment opportunities” is at the root of this problem.  Their education platform and similar initiatives in prison education target this problem by providing coursework that educates prisoners and teaches them valuable new skills that can help them lead more productive and more rewarding lives outside of prison. 

A Department Image courtesy reentryaftercare.orgChair at the College of New Jersey posted an article on Michael Moore.com asserting that “Over ninety percent of inmates eventually return to society,” (michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/how-cut-deficit-increase-prison-education-programs).  Many of these inmates have not completed high school and have no skill sets for making a living in society.  Few would argue that returning people as they are with no additional training or education will not yield a positive outcome—not for the majority who fall into that 60 percent of inmates who will return to prison.  In other words, there is a genuine need to bring that percent down and prison education is the key to making that happen.

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