The U.S. has the highest total prison population in the world, and one of the highest rates of recidivism. 

America has five percent of the world’s population, but it incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners. Incarceration in this country is between 4 to 7 times higher than other Western countries. An even more startling fact is that our corrections system costs American taxpayers over $80 billion a year. What do we get for that $80 billion price tag? Many believe it is a high rate of recidivism.

Recidivism: The tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend.

The national crime rate in America and number of people incarcerated has declined during the past 5 years. That’s an encouraging statistic. But, the percentage of new crimes committed by individuals who were released from prison has been increasing. A statistic that is rather discouraging.

Recidivism, is known by people in the prison industry as “the revolving door”. Approximately 68% of all released prisoners (nation wide) are re-arrested within three years of their release.

Non-whites and poor people are the ones who are most directly affected by incarceration and recidivism. Poor blacks are among those most effected. But it doesn’t just effect the offenders who are incarcerated, it effects the mobility of their families and the communities they inhabit. Poor communities of color pay the highest price for high recidivism — in terms of pervasive intergenerational poverty, erosion of relationships, and public safety. And, often those most effected are children.

What Do Prisoners Actually Do in Prison?

According to many prisoner, aside from daily prison assignments, that spend the bulk of their time sleeping, watching TV, exercising, and playing cards. Many have extra time on their hands, offering the opportunity to focus on education and building a new future for themselves and their families.

The prison population is full of drug dealers, con artists, and individuals practiced in the art of distributing stolen goods. While these are all illegal practices, the people who have committed them generally understand the principles of business: the cost of goods, finance, and even customer acquisition and retention. The opportunity here is to give these people a formal business education, along with ethics, and turn their self-taught illegal skills into productive careers and care for their families.

Putting the focus On the Back End

While the US justice system has traditionally focused its efforts at the front end of the system, by locking offenders up, some believe it has not exerted an equal effort at the tail end of the system: decreasing the likelihood of reoffending among formerly incarcerated people. This is a very important point, because ninety-five percent of prisoners will be released back into the community at some point.

Education May Be the Cheapest Way to Reduce Recidivism

According to a study done by the RAND Corporation, those who receive correctional education while in prison are 43% less likely to return to than those who do not receive it. They are also 13% more likely to gain employment after their release than their fellow former inmates who did not receive education. According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy,  every dollar invested in correctional education returns $18 to society by reduced policing costs, victim costs, criminal justice systems costs. Long term, it also may serve to decrease the costs of building new prisons and incarceration costs.

National Statistics on Recidivism

Bureau of Justice Statistics studies tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005. Researchers found:

  • Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
  • Within five years, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
  • Of those prisoners who were rearrested, 56.7 percent were arrested by the end of the first year.
  • Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order offenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.

Getting a Prison Scholarship

The Prison Education Foundation is able to grant only a limited number of scholarships. All scholarships are based on the availability of donor funding.

To qualify for consideration, an inmate must meet certain eligibility requirements.
The eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • You must have a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate,
  • You must be a U.S. citizen,
  • You must be within seven (7) years of your scheduled release date,
  • You must have no serious disciplinary incidents within the past 12 months, and
  • You must be accepted into an Associate or Baccalaureate degree program with a
    regionally accredited college or university approved by the Prison Education Foundation.

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