What it Costs When We Don't Educate Inmates for Life After Prison

What it Costs When We Don't Educate Inmates for Life After Prison


Right now, taxpayers spend up to $70 billion each year to house the nation’s two to three million prisoners. That works out to about $31,000 per inmate. One would think that with such a stiff price tag, we’d be doing a better job of rehabilitation. The truth is that the prison system still does a particularly questionable job of educating inmates for life after incarceration, with only about 6 percent of corrections spending used on education programs. And that matters more than the average person realizes.  Image courtesy prisonlawblog.com

Currently, less than 15 percent of students in juvenile detention centers finish high school or complete a GED. Few prisons offer opportunities for adult inmates to pursue college degrees. That can make finding a job and reintegrating into society in a positive way much more difficult.

Stephen Steurer, executive director of the Correctional Education Association, said there are efforts at the state and national levels — the U.S. Education Department has an Office of Correctional Education, for example — to educate prisoners, but there isn’t enough funding to back those initiatives up and there isn’t much consistency from state to state. In fact, rehabilitation efforts by most states have hardly changed in 40 years.

One reason is that people in the United States react very differently to the idea of funding education in prisons than many people in Europe, particularly Scandinavia. And the current economy hasn’t helped that.

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(First published by ABC News/Univision)

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