At the end of 2014 there were an estimated 1,561,500 prisoners in state and federal correctional facilities within the United States. This number is continuing to grow and the recidivism rate is over 70% within five years of release. It is increasingly hard for released prisoners to find work or obtain an education.In 2016 during any given month the Washington state Department of Corrections lists between 18,000-19,000 incarcerated offenders. Most of the offenders entering prison in Washington state lack the skills and education to succeed in society. Inmates who participate in correction education programs have a 43 percent less chance of returning to prison. Offering education programs to prisoners helps to create individuals that are able to be contributing members of society. Everyone deserves access to education.
A Transformative Experience
When speaking with offenders who receive an education while in prison you will hear many of them describe it as transformative. Many prisoners come from minority and low-income backgrounds. At a young age they do not see a college education as something they will be able to achieve, lots of times they do not even graduate from high school. It is amazing to hear the real life accounts of those who are transformed by their education while in prison.
A transformative prison education can assist in building self esteem as well as motivating the learners involved. A transformative learning experience can impact the prisoner, society, and the prisoner’s immediate family in a positive light (Keen,2016).
For a prisoner an education can be liberating and freeing. Prisoners are in an institution where they completely feel powerless . Sharing power with students helps them to feel like they are part of a democratic society when all of their actual power has been stripped away. It is important to know how as an educator teaching in the prison can be equally rewarding. Prison education is a form of activism and it strives for social justice. There is a great deal of social inequality in prison. The institution of prison tries to create robots who are unable to think on their own, yet by offering prison education we are encouraging free thinking. Prison punishes a prisoner’s behavior but it does little to transform the person. An education in prison can be the one factor that offers something transformative for the prisoners.
Help Create Change
There are several programs that are dedicated to reducing the recidivism rate and preparing prisoners for life after prison- through education and employment:
A very good resource for learning more about education in the prison system is below, most all of the articles I read about this topic were written in this journal: