Corrections, in every single state, keeps going in circles trying to find what is the best way to reduce recidivism. The reality is, the only ways to reduce recidivism costs a lot of money that taxpayers and the state do not want to pay, and reasonably so. If Corrections is truly designed to correct behavior, shouldn’t we be trying to find ways to correct the inmate’s behavior and trying to successfully reintegrate them into society?
One of the best ways to predict whether an individual will recidivate, or commit a crime at all, is to look at how much education they have received. In the 1990’s, it seemed every institution had college courses or at least GED programs. Now, there are no in-house college courses offered in Illinois because of lack of funding and the wishes of the general public. There is a belief among the general public that a prison does not deserve to have more opportunities than the poorest free person, which is a contributing factor to why there are no college courses offered in IDOC anymore. However, a study done by MTC Institute and Correctional Education Association found that “Participants in correctional-education programs had a 48% rate of re-arrest, while the nonparticipants had a 57% rate.” The participants also had fewer rates of reconviction and were more likely to remain employed, and at higher wages than nonparticipants that did not participate in correctional education programs (journalistsresource). This study shows that there are indeed ways to help reduce recidivism. A similar study done at Bedford Hills Correctional Center, the only maximum-security female prison in New York found that fewer than 8 percent of former inmates who took college classes in prison returned to prison during the three-year period after release. Inmates who did not take any college classes in prison had an almost 30% recidivism rate (ncpa).
Since states and departments of corrections have little-to-no money in these trying economic times, it is extremely hard to fund in-house educational programs. One way to offset the expenses is to allow inmates to receive grants or student aid to help pay for their college courses. The remaining balance from student aid and grants should be paid by the inmate or their family so the burden does not rest on tax-payers. Inmates could use the money they make in prison labor to pay for their college tuition or find some way to help exchange tuition for some goods or services to society, such as community service or contracting. Of course not all inmates will have equal opportunity to receive higher education due to mental illness or financial problems but this would reflect opportunities on the outside.
Since it is proven that higher education helps reduce recidivism, I think it is a good idea that we help implement these programs. The ultimate goal of the DOC should be to help successfully reintegrate convicts into society, and this program could help to achieve that goal. The inmates need to bear the burden of paying for the classes, not the taxpayers. In this way the inmates would be taking responsibility of their own future and could help to solve prison boredom. Education has shown to have no adverse effects on recidivism, so why not try to re-implement these programs to help make society safer and help relieve some of the monetary burden on the state’s taxpayers because of those whom recidivate?