Education during Imprisonment

Mr. Chojnacki
English 110
Education during Imprisonment
Education and job skills are key elements to reducing recidivism therefore; prisons, county jails, and the probation offices should adopt mandatory programs so ex-offenders can become productive members of society. Every year approximately 9 million people are released from prison in the U.S. (Center, T. N.-e., 2012) and due to lack of education and job skills, 52% of those 9 million returns within three years. According to Yamatani & Spjeldnes (2011), “The United States represents only 5 percent of the world’s population, but we hold 25 percent of the world's inmates in our prisons and jails (Pew Center on the States, 2008). We have more people behind bars in total numbers and per capita than any other industrialized country--2.3 million out of nearly 300 million (750 per 100,000 residents)--one out of 100 U.S.” This essay will show the difference between recidivism and rehabilitation as well as showing how education and job training can effectively reduce the rate of recidivism in the U.S.
What is recidivism you ask? The Merriam-Webster defines recidivism as a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012). Recidivism comes into play because people who have limited education and no job skills tend to find other means of support which are not always legal. According to O’Brien, (2005), Women who left prisons that offered educational and job training programs were less likely to recidivate. The study also showed that these women suffered from lack of education and job skills before their arrest. When one knows no other means than the one that got them arrested in the first place, this causes them to leave prison and revert back to their former selves. This is what the dictionary says that rehabilitation is. Rehabilitation is, defined as, restoring someone or something to a former state or capacity. Now why would we want to restore someone to their former uneducated, unskilled self? That is defeating the purpose of the incarceration.
This takes us to whether or not incarcerating a person rehabilitates them or not. According to Diane Brown, when entering prison you are automatically put to work either in the kitchen or as a porter (janitor). The only way you are mandated to school is if you're reading scores are a 6.0 or below, and you are never taught any job skills. It’s either you know it or you don’t. Ms. Brown states in the interview with the author that she has been incarcerated 5 times and is currently on parole. She also states that she has never been legally employed because she does not know how to fill out an application so she has to do other things to make money to support her and her son (personal communication, October 01, 2012). People like Diane are in need of our help. There is a saying quoted by Maya Angelou (Author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird sings”) and it goes, “When you know better, you do better”, this applies directly to most of these offenders. The crimes that they commit are not always in malice, but just another means of survival. These are the people that would benefit from the educational and job readiness programs spoken of here. “Education and job readiness can greatly decrease the rate of recidivism. Those recently released from prison are at a higher risk of being rearrested if they do not have the tools they need to move ahead (Visher, 2010).” We want them to progress forward. The only way to do this is to mandate education and job training, not only during their incarceration, but after their release as well. Taxpayers feel as though this may be a waste of money but it is believed by others that this will be the most effective strategy to use to reduce recidivism. With the way that the system is working now it is only a form of punishment for the offender and not helping to make them productive members of society once their incarceration is over. It cost taxpayers approximately $64 billion yearly to run the State prisons which is just a little over $31,000 per inmate (CBS Sunday Morning, 2012). This money could be used to start programs that will educate these