Expert Commentary

Education reduces crime: Three-state recidivism study

2006 metastudy on the effect of prison education programs on recidivism and post-incarceration employment rates.

Crime prevention efforts aren’t limited to policing and incarceration. Education has long been advocated as a way to help former inmates succeed in the world outside prison after their release and thus reduce reincarceration.

A 2006 study by the MTC Institute and Correctional Education Association, “Education Reduces Crime: Three-State Recidivism Study,” examines the effect of education on recidivism rates. The authors studied two groups of inmates:  one that participated in educational programs, and the other that didn’t.

All inmates studied shared characteristics that increased the risk of unemployment and recidivism upon release, including their age (most were around 30), education level (two-thirds did not complete high school), and family status (the majority were single). After release, those studied were followed for three years to determine any recidivism, including another arrest, conviction or incarceration, as well as employment rates.

The results of the study showed that:

  • Participants in correctional-education programs had a 48% rate of re-arrest, while the nonparticipants had a 57% rate.
  • Participants had a 27% rate of reconviction, while nonparticipants had a 35% rate.
  • Participants had a 21% rate of reincarceration, while nonparticipants had a 31% rate.
  • Participants were more likely to remain employed, and at a higher wage, than nonparticipants.

The authors conclude that increased funding for correctional education would provide inmates with a greater chance at rehabilitation and a smaller likelihood of returning to criminal behavior upon release. They recommend more research that does not merely measure recidivism as an indicator of a program’s success, but that looks at post-release employment, parole compliance and family reconciliation.

Tags: employment, metastudy, prisons, crime

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