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Criminal Justice, Education

Education reduces crime: Three-state recidivism study

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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

    Writer: | Last updated: May 13, 2009

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the issue-related Marin Independent Journal article titled "State Cuts Could Mean an End to Classroom Rehab at San Quentin."

    1. If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?

    Read the full MTC Institute and Correctional Education Association study titled "Education Reduces Crime: Three-State Recidivism Study."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.