Should Prisoners be given the opportunity to get an education?

Danielle Hunczak, Staff Writer

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Imagine your life behind bars. Imagine not being able to finish your high school education, and losing out on 4 years of your education. How can we expect inmates to become a productive part of society upon release if there is no education given to them while they are incarcerated?  According to the website Prison Education, education in U.S. prisons began in 1787 and has been up and down in numbers since. Before 1995, the U.S. had around 350 in-prison college programs, by 2005 that number decreased to 12 (prisoneducation.com). Twelve education programs is not enough to help those who are incarcerated become a productive part of society upon their release, rehabilitate them and keep them out of prison.  

Education is a key necessity for many around the world. Without an education getting a job can be difficult. In the United States it is a law and a right that everyone must go through schooling and obtain an education. However, how is it that everyone is granted this right expect those behind bars? By educating those who are incarcerated, it has been proven that higher increase in education in prisons is causing a reduction in crime, according to Prison Studies Project. In order to keep those who are newly released back into society out of prison, they have to be given the “jobs skills that make them marketable employees” according to The New York Times. Whether those skills be how to build a resume or how to pay bills, these skills can help get someone back on their feet and back into society.

Rehabilitation is the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction or illness. Education in the rehabilitation process “would help enormously. It would allow a prisoner to use the dead time in prison to better him/her self and give them a greater chance to get meaningful employment when they finish their sentence,” stated Mr. James Patuto, a New Jersey criminal defense attorney.. By focusing their minds on the new beginnings that can be waiting for them instead of allowing them time to think about their old life and old habits, can be a major break through. The idea of rehabilitation is to ensure that those going through the process have the strength and resources to make it on their own, and being sure that they don’t end up back in prison after they are released. According to CNN, “50% to 75% of all people who return home from prison end up incarcerated again within five years”. The idea behind education is to educate people on the rights and wrong, to show them how to make a proper living and to ensure they won’t be back in prison.

Keeping former inmates and the younger generations out of prison, can not be left up to the neighborhoods or the households. Educating those about the rights and wrongs is the only way to ensure that we keep former inmates and the younger generation out of prison. According to CNN, “We must act urgently to increase opportunities for education, workforce skills, entrepreneurship and rehabilitation for individuals who are incarcerated. By doing so we can work aggressively to prevent young people from going down the wrong path again, keeping them out of prison by providing access to college rather than a slippery slope to prison.”

Increasing opportunities in education show teenagers that school is not a waste of time. It gets them off the streets sooner rather than later and can help them avoid jail time in their futures. According to Mr. Patuto, when people are arrested and placed back in prison again after being released, it costs the taxpayers more money. “[It is] much more expensive to have a prisoner recidivate and commit a crime and go back to prison, than to train a prisoner to be a productive member of society and not need to return to criminal activity,” he says. Why risk going back to the one place where you can’t do anything without being watched? Why not take the educational courses that are offered and use them to become a productive part of society? Could it be that they don’t know about these options that are offered to them? That is why education reforms needs to be put into place in all prisons, not just 12 of them. Everyone should feel as though they have a chance to change their course to something more than sitting in a 6 x 8 feet at all hours of the day for days on end.  

As a society we are trying to decrease the number of people who return to prison, as well as the number of teenagers who find themselves behind bars. Educate yourself for the knowledge that comes from it, do it to start building your future, don’t let mistakes take away years from your education process.    

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Should Prisoners be given the opportunity to get an education?