This Pen Is Our Future
Prison Is Known For
Prisons are historically made to be a place of punishment, a place that would place incarcerate criminals for the sake of public safety, yet it does not provide the proper rehabilitation for inmates that are sentenced for a certain amount of time before being released back into society. Prison is used as deterrence, a method in the criminal justice system to discourage criminal behavior, to prevent criminals that are released from doing any future crimes, but that proves to be ineffective to most criminals therefore making prison an unlikely solution unless that problem can be resolved. Prison is a correction institution for prisoners, known for punishment for those that committed a crime, and people sent to prison to be incarcerated does not get the proper rehabilitation needed for returning to society following their sentence. Inmates released from prison following their sentences are not prepared to return to which makes it difficult for former prisoners to associate themselves within their community. This includes the association with their community as to being pushed away due to their criminal record therefore making it difficult for these former criminals to be part of the community. For those reasons, most of these people who step into prison then out is likely to end up returning after their sentence with a new set of crimes thus causing a repeat to occur of returning prisoners. Recidivism, a relapse of criminal behavior, has been an issue in which it needs to be addressed to keep it at a sustainable rate and prevent future crimes.
What benefits would be providing with education programs in prisons give to both prisoners and society? Prisons can use the education program as a step forward to being a rehabilitation that would provide for inmates with a learning experience especially if the inmate was not able to obtain access to education previously. Provided with a possibility for a college degree or a high school diploma, the inmate can have more possibilities when returning to society such as finding a job to support themselves. Although some jobs do not require educational experience, it will give the inmates an advantage of more possibilities of a job and productive member of society. This could lower rates of recidivism if the prisoners were given a purpose instead of turning to criminal behaviors that would lead them back to prison in the first place. This does not only include inside prisons, but also to society that needs to be more accepting to former criminals especially universities that require past criminal record hence causing them to withdraw from their admissions. While giving an opportunity for inmates to be provided with education from the programs is part of supporting them, universities and colleges must be able to accept former prisoners just as much.
By providing education programs in prison, it can manage to be a place of rehabilitation for inmates instead of deterrence. The purpose of prison was for punishment, public safety, and rehabilitation despite being the least important from apart the other two (Keller). Governor Andrew M. Cuomo states that prisons aren’t a warehouse in which you lock people inside for years before turning them to society then expecting that they would pull through (McKinley). In early 1980s, education was a part of the prison life that gave 350 college programs for prisoners throughout the nation until the Violent Crime Control, Law Enforcement Act, and other legislation withdrew educational grants from prisoners in ’90s hence the prison population shot up (Lennon). Michael P. Jacobson, a veteran correction official, states that “the influence of high-profile crimes, fear of crime, issue of race, the acquisition of cheap political capital — all have had far more influence on criminal justice policy than what we know works, or what is fair or just” (Keller). While deterrence is another method for preventing crime, it isn’t just for many reasons especially if the fear give positive feedback and crime rate continues to soar. There must be another way that can prevent such as crime and recidivism from rising therefore there needs to be a prison reform. Cuomo first brought up a plan two years ago for the state to pay for college courses for inmates, but was criticized for the misuse of taxpayer money for convicted criminals before being brought up once again to offer an expansion in education programs in prison (McKinley). In addition to Cuomo’s plan, the Obama administration offers a pilot program that was first announced last summer for Pell Grant to inmates to measure the costs and benefits and since the U.S. Congress banned Pell Grants for prisoners in 1994, they’ve used the Higher Education Act to support the pilot (Wexler). While the pilot program is a “step in the right direction,” it is not the solution (Wexler).
A Learning Experience
Prisoners would be able to gain a learning experience with the access and opportunity to gain a college degree and or a high school diploma before being released outside of these prison walls. Most inmates were not able to access education previously, most of which have not completed college or even high school. While having a college degree is a ticket to enter society, there are more than 40% of inmates that lack a high school diploma therefore with the expansion of the programs for prison could provide support to the people’s life and work following their release (“A College Education for Prisoners”). Some inmates previously faced traumatic events in an early age that affected their learning experience throughout their life therefore with an opportunity to receive an education could help at an emotional standpoint and understanding before turning it into something they can use for future purposes (“Prison University Project”). There are many opposing politicians that consisted of mostly Republicans and some Democrats that were against Cuomo to offering taxpayer money to educate convicted criminals when it could be used for “decent citizens” for their children’s college (Keller). George D. Maziarz, a Western New York state senator, believes that criminals should do their time in prison instead of earning a degree in which it implies, “let criminals be criminals” (Keller). Although it makes sense that giving a convicted criminal a chance for an education seems like absurd, it can benefit the prison and the inmate altogether with the right amount of patience before being released. The chances of a prisoner who returns to society with a record of criminal activity is likely to have a difficult time to find a job unless they are given the proper amount of education and time in which they can improve themselves as a person. The support of the Prison University Project from the staff and teachers can “…see the importance of the guys inside getting an education and how important it is to come out of prison with an education” thus showing their determination to giving the inmates a smooth transitioning from prison to the outside world (“Prison University Project”). With proper preparation, the inmates can have hopes for a future outside of prison therefore giving them a more promising outcome. Throughout the time spent for their education and development over the course of time, education programs can spread throughout a wide range of learning opportunity, but a change emerging as a result of an education before setting foot into to society with a newfound purpose.
Fit Right In
Prisoners with a degree will be more than likely to enter society with a sense of renewed purpose. Governor Cuomo states that inmates who obtain an education are more likely to find a job therefore making it unlikely to cause harm to others in their community after their release (Keller). An effective method to keep people out from prison is by giving them job skills that make them marketable employees and with the Obama administration taking the turn for a pilot program for inmates receiving federal Pell Grants to have college courses in prison (“A College Education for Prisoners”). This give inmates the opportunity whether they want to take that chance to obtain these skills through an education program that will be able to help their future outside of the prison walls as much as an education would do for a student by providing them a degree before parting to be a part of the economy. There are institutions that offer college courses and it would be improved to have credits earned to transfer out to colleges outside prison walls because if these inmates were to be released then they would be able to continue their education after release (McKinley). The series of education programs are mainly focused in helping former prisoners re-enter society and find work. There are inmates who leave prison every year, more than 600,000 people, that are not able to get the proper support needed for them to enter society therefore it is our economy’s job, especially the criminal justice reform, to prepare people for life after prison is important to lessen poverty and increase worker productivity (Rubin). Although there are jobs that does not require a degree, it will give them a likely chance and a wide range of opportunity for a job and experience to be a productive member in society. For example, if you were given $200 of money with no place to live, no work, and no help to adjust to the life outside of prison then there would be less of a possibility of success after their sentence (Rubin). With this possibility of striking up a chance for these prisoners to gain a job and find a purpose outside of prison walls, it will benefit prisons and society with the likes of reducing recidivism by giving a reason for them to stay out of prison.
Coming And Going
The chances of recidivism will decrease with the support of the education programs in prison. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney and contributor to Cuomo’s financing mechanism, believes that by expanding the college programs for inmates can benefit as an exit strategy from a crime-fighting standpoint since inmates who are able to earn a college degree are unlikely to return to prison as a re-offender (McKinley). Without a strategy to prevent recidivism, the likely chance of crime rate and the buildup in prison will increase over time hence will make it difficult for it to be maintained therefore with using education programs as part of the solution would help reduce recidivism by preventing any further previous convicts to return. There are different institutions that are provided with the education programs that were able to reduce the rates of recidivism and returning prisoners. Bard College, a college that created a prison education program in 2001 significantly reduced recidivism rate to 4% by those who took the program and 2.5% who earned a degree in prison (“A College Program for Prisoners”). Although there are college programs in prisons, it is sometimes difficult for former convicts to find a college to continue their education. The State University of New York chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, recommends there should be a change in universities to which they should accept admissions from people with previous criminal convictions to enhance the public safety and reduce recidivism to create a fair facility (Rosenberg). Most colleges and universities requires those that want to be admitted in must tell if they used to be former criminals or any past records in crime hence causing many to withdraw. For providing education for prisoners, it should be both accepting in both prison and universities to be able to give them the proper education for recidivism to take effect.
For this reason, prisons should have access to education programs that will provide an opportunity for inmates to get an education and get them ready after release. Prison is meant to be a rehabilitation to make sure that the inmates will be released and be able to associate themselves with society. Inmates can gain a learning experience that will provide them the skills to get a job or continue getting their education after their sentence in prison, making it less likely for them to return prison with a new set of crimes. To prevent any future crime and rise of recidivism, you can provide help by volunteering and or donating as well as make aware that there are programs provided to re-educate inmates are out there. There are not many programs that are there to provide support to prisoners therefore it be best to help expand these education programs to other prisons and gain awareness of a future for former prisoners in society.
“A College Education for Prisoners.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2016. Web.
Keller, Bill. “College for Criminals.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Apr. 2014. Web.
Lennon, John J. “Let Prisoners Take College Courses.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Ap. 2015. Web.
Mckinley, Jess, and James C. Mckinley. “Cuomo Purposes Higher-Education Initiative in New York Prisons.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2016. Web.
“Prison University Project.” Vimeo. Vimeo LLC. 2016. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
Rosenberg, Eli. “SUNY to Stop Asking Applicants About Felony Convictions.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2016. Web.
Rubin, Robert E. “The Smart Way to Help Ex-Convicts, and Society.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 June 2016. Web.
Wexler, Ellen. “U.S. Expands Pell Grant Program to 12,000 in Prison.” Inside Higher Ed. Inside Higher Ed, 24 June 2016. Web.