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Educating Our Inmates Can Save Taxpayers Millions By: Dr. Turner Nashe, Senior Vice President of Education Services at GTL

With an incarcerated population of over 2.1 million inmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics), the United States needs to tackle the issues plaguing our correctional institutions. This is important not only from a financial standpoint—it costs almost $32,000 each year to incarcerate a single inmate—but also from a societal standpoint. The U.S. is doing a poor job of rehabilitating incarcerated individuals—instead they are trapped in a never-ending cycle of release, re-offense, and reincarceration in our nation's jails and prisons. This cycle fails inmates and ultimately burdens the American taxpayer. A National Institute of Justice study found that within three years of release, about two-thirds of released prisoners recidivated, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, total state corrections expenditures have nearly quadrupled over the past two decades, rising from $15 billion in 1982 to $53.5 billion in 2010. Reincarceration means more imprisonment costs. However, an investment in inmate education has the potential to break the reincarceration cycle and prepare the incarcerated for productive and legal employment upon release.

rate drops to approximately 30 percent. With an associate degree, recidivism drops to 13.7 percent, and with a bachelor’s degree, it drops to 5.6 percent. Once an inmate has a master’s degree, the recidivism rate is not even statistically significant enough to count as one percent.

These statistics show that education has a direct impact on reducing recidivism, which could save millions of dollars for taxpayers. The U.S. Department of Justice states that 650,000 inmates are released from prison each year. The National Institute of Justice study states that more than half (56.7%) of those released prisoners—368,550—were rearrested within a year’s time. If we can stop just 5% of those inmates—18,427—from recidivating in the first year and being sent back to correctional facilities, taxpayers would save more than $589 million (18,427 inmates multiplied by an annual incarceration cost of $32,000). It is well documented by the RAND Corporation that educational programs have a positive impact on inmates and recidivism rates. The results included such insights as: 1. Inmates who participate in education programs while incarcerated have a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating than those who did not have access to such programs.

2. Inmates who participate in educational programs have a 13 percent better chance of landing a job after their release.

Education drastically reduces the likelihood that an inmate will reoffend and return to prison. For example, when inmates receive vocational training, the recidivism Southern Oregon Business Journal

3. Every dollar spent on inmate education reduces recidivism costs between four and five dollars down the line.

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July 2017  
July 2017  

Southern Oregon Business Journal