Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prison College Programs

Having developed and managed a successful community-based college educational program for former prisoners as a reentry program, I can attest to the value of education in the process of rehabilitation.

Extending that good idea to the bad idea of offering internet based programs inside prison (considering the skill prisoners have shown controlling crime on the outside from inside via illegally aquired cell-phone techology, though instructor-led or correspondence college courses are appropriate) as reported by the Wall Street Journal, makes no sense.

An excerpt.

“While serving more than 12 years for robbery, Carlos Rosado completed the requirements for a bachelor of arts degree from Bard College, helping him land a job after his release last spring from a New York state prison.

"Most inmates never have the opportunity to get a college degree," said Mr. Rosado, 36 years old, who works as a field engineer for a recycling firm.

“The rarity of that opportunity was underscored in a survey to be released Wednesday by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonprofit devoted to increasing access to post-secondary education around the world.

“Based on data provided by correctional officers in 43 states, the survey found only 6% of prisoners were enrolled in vocational or academic post-secondary programs during the 2009-2010 school year. Of those who were enrolled, 86% were serving time in 13 states, suggesting other states provide little access to inmate education.

“The survey, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argued for giving inmates greater access to education—including Internet-based programs—on grounds that doing so could reduce the overall cost of incarceration by limiting recidivism. About 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. cost about $52 billion a year, the survey said.

“At a time of severe budget constraints, any plan to increase funding for prisoner education could face political difficulties.

“The author of the report, IHEP research analyst Brian Sponsler, said, "There is no connection whatsoever between the funder of this work and the policy recommendations derived from it. This is not a Gates Foundation [recommendation] in any sense."

“The survey is part of a Gates-funded research project aimed at examining ways to increase post-secondary-education access to all underserved populations.

“The IHEP study found that most educational opportunities for inmates take place on site via instructor visits to prison. While prisoners in most facilities have long been able to take correspondence classes through the mail, access to the Internet is prohibited in many prisons, both to protect the public from inmate scams and to control inmate communication with the outside world.”