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April 30, 2019

"The case for education in prison"

The title of this post is the title of this new Hill commentary authored by Arthur Rizer and Jesse Kelley.  Here is an excerpt:

As a nation, we are in desperate need of qualified workers and running out of places to look for them.  Yet we also have millions of individuals sitting idle in prisons, 95 percent of whom will eventually be released.  Sadly, our justice system has an abysmal record of preparing these individuals for life beyond concrete walls — especially when it comes to helping them enter the job market.  In fact, one year after their release, almost 60 percent of all formerly incarcerated individuals are still unemployed.

For the lucky few who do find employment, they are paid an average of 40 percent less than those with no criminal record.  These individuals represent a potential pool of untapped resources for employers looking to hire new workers. B ut in order to ensure that the formerly incarcerated are suited for the modern workforce, we need to increase opportunities for them to receive an education while behind bars.  Offering inmates postsecondary correctional education would provide a new world of opportunities for both these individuals and business owners....

Businesses thrive when they hire educated employees.  When employers have the option to hire from a larger pool of well-educated candidates, they can strengthen their productivity and competitiveness.  Investing in potential employees’ educational futures can add to the supply.  By investing in postsecondary correctional education in particular, employers can help meet their own demand for highly skilled employees....

For those formerly incarcerated who are re-entering the workforce, both the routine and the responsibility of employment offer financial support and the ability to build a life removed from past habits that might otherwise lead to reoffending. This is critical, especially considering that although recidivism rates have improved somewhat, they are still alarmingly high: An estimated three-fifths of those released from prison are convicted of a new offense within five years of their release....

By expanding the pool of hirable candidates to include more formerly incarcerated individuals with a postsecondary education, businesses can increase their market competitiveness and support returning citizens.  It is therefore in the business community’s best interest to support post-secondary education in prisons.

April 30, 2019 at 06:09 PM | Permalink

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