Correctional Education Programs Benefit Inmates, Reduce Recidivism

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

A July 2018 RAND Corporation study emphasized the importance of higher education for inmates, as Leighanna Shirey reported for Citizen Truth. Higher education serves as a form of rehabilitation. Access to higher education allows incarcerated individuals to develop new skills  leading to reduced recidivism, the RAND study documented.

As Lois Davis, a senior policy researcher at RAND and leader of the study, told Citizen Truth, the study “dispelled the myths about whether or not education helps inmates when they get out. Education is, by far, such a clear winner.” She also promoted the benefits of educating incarcerated people for wider society. “What do you want for your community? …If you don’t rehabilitate them, how are they going to successfully rejoin society?”

The RAND study corroborated previous research on the value of post-secondary education programs for incarcerated people. For example, the Vera Institute of Justice has found that “education is key to improving many long-term outcomes for incarcerated people, their families, and their communities—including reducing recidivism and increasing employability and earnings after release.”

Citizen Truth reported that Glenn E. Martin, a former convict, exemplified the benefits of postsecondary education opportunities for incarcerated people. Martin earned an Associate’s degree in a New York prison while serving a six-year sentence for armed robber. On release, Shirey wrote, Martin “used what he learned to make a difference in society,” launching an organization, JustLeadershipUSA, that helps prepare formerly incarcerated leaders to have a voice in the national debate over criminal justice and prison reform.

Major news outlets including the New York Times and NPR, fail to report on the positive societal effects of higher education in prisons. Instead, their orientation is primarily economic and centered on Congressional politics. For example, in February 2018, the New York Times reported that Senate leaders might reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students, “a move that would restore a federal lifeline to the nation’s cash-strapped prison education system.” More recently, in April 2019, NPR reported on how Congress was again considering legislation to make Pell grants available to incarcerated people. By contrast, the Prisons Studies Project offers consistent, detailed coverage of higher education issues affecting incarcerated people, and efforts to improve educational opportunities for them.

Source: Leighanna Shirey, “New Study Proves Vast Benefits of Higher Education for Inmates,” Citizen Truth, June 13, 2019,

Student Researchers: Gabriella Grondalski, Rebecca Herbert, Kiara Killelea, Ciara Lockwood, Eleanor Sprick (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Advisor:  Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)