How Prison Education Reduces Recidivism

Posted by on September 14th, 2017

Recidivism is defined as a convicted criminal’s tendency to reoffend. It is the repetition of undesirable, previously punished behavior. A 2013 research report by the RAND Corporation indicated that prison inmates who have received vocational training or general education are significantly less likely to return to prison after release.


The prison education programs range from general education to high school equivalency and include post-secondary and vocational training. Participation in the various education programs offered strengthens the job-related knowledge, critical thinking ability and communication skills of inmates. These skills are directly related to an ex-offender’s ability to perform favorably upon reentry to society.



Ex-offenders reentering society often lack steady employment history and vocational training. The absence of these two things leads to increased difficulty in former inmates locating, securing and maintaining jobs. Education programs equip offenders with skills necessary to perform on the job. Inmates also benefit from the use of computer-assisted instruction. The benefits influence their math and reading skills along with providing knowledge on the successful use of technology, a highly preferred job skill.


Critical Thinking

Post-secondary education emphasizes critical thinking skills. Inmates are challenged to use different forms of inquiry and analysis. The result of more complex thinking provides former convicts with opportunities to see the challenges they face from different perspectives and to think of more favorable solutions when problem solving.


Social Impact

Education programs within the prison system often have a social impact on inmates. Participating in courses provides inmates an opportunity to strengthen their communication skills by promoting a more social environment. Inmates are required to communicate more effectively both orally and written.


A study conducted by the Institute of Higher Education Policy offers data supporting a reduction in problems with disciplinary infractions. Strengthened communication skills coupled with the reduction in disciplinary infractions increase the likelihood of a former convict to be more socially adapted once they are released. Other studies link education to improved familial relationships. These families view inmate participation in education as a demonstration of commitment to rehabilitation and offer added support once they are released.


Reports indicate that on average, education reduces recidivism by over 40 percent. This is achieved when prisons provide access to both general education courses and vocational training. Recidivism is reduced by education because former inmates have the education and training necessary to equip them for better careers and futures. Education also offers a reduction in recidivism as critical thinking skills are taught and strengthened. Likewise, the social impact of education enhances communication skills. These skills are among the essentials for success in life after incarceration.



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