Valeria Reyes, Section Editor

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Equal Justice Initiative

The topic of prison education has not necessarily been a common discussion up for debate. Many people don’t take into account the importance of education in the prison system or seem to address the necessity of it in our society. What are the actual benefits of offering classes in correctional facilities, how is it important? Education in correctional facilities usually consists of general education for GED’s and high school level courses. Some facilities include college-level courses. Many prisons offer classes in basic reading, math, and English as a second language.

These programs open doors to better career paths for the incarcerated and provide a basis for when they are released. Allowing for more options for employment and setting them in the right direction is necessary for shaping and helping them become better citizens. Providing a way for the imprisoned to better themselves has many benefits not only for the inmates but saves money for the states because it has been associated with a reduction in recidivism rates. Recidivism refers to the relapse into criminal behavior. This is important because the government will no longer have to spend money on the recurrent offenders and will save taxpayer money. This also suggests that educational programs in prison make communities safer because the possibility of a re-offense is less likely. However, opportunities like these raise questions.

What is the purpose of a prison? Some answer this question simply as a form of punishment, others as a form of rehabilitation or deterrence. The idea that all prisoners or incarcerated people are all bad is constantly stigmatized in our society. Those with already negative views of people in the prison system do not take lightly to the idea that some prisons offer free education and college courses. Why should law abiding citizens pay for college when actual “criminals” do not? These ideas and perspectives greatly threaten the development of these programs because they question the value and importance of useful programs aimed at helping incarcerated people succeed outside of prison.

When asked about her views on the objection of correctional education, Vanessa Reyes, a tutor at San Quentin State Prison said, “I’m not surprised that people believe giving higher education to those in prison is giving away ‘too much’. However, we need to shift how we view incarcerated folks and start to understand that they are worthy of educational success, too.” Overall, the use and establishment of projects to better the incarcerated are needed to provide a stable ground for past offenders and to greatly help our communities.

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