MU Study Shows Prison Education Reduces Prison Return rate
COLUMBIA -An MU researcher found that educating inmates and preparing them for finding jobs will reduce the rate of prisoners returning to prison. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 67 percent of the inmates currently in prison will recidivate, or reoffend and go back to prison.
Jake Cronin, a policy analyst with the Institute of Public Policy in the Truman School of Public Affairs at MU, studied data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. He found that inmates who earned their GED while in prison were significantly more likely to find a job after prison and less likely to return to prison than those who did not early their GED.
"Employment proves to be the strongest predictor of not returning to prison that we found," Cronin said. "Those who have a full-time job are much less likely to return to prison than similar inmates who are unemployed. Recidivism rates were nearly cut in half for former inmates with a full-time job compared to similar inmates who are unemployed. Inmates who take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them in prison are more likely to find a job than those who do not."
Reduced recidivism rates can reduce incarceration costs a substantial amount, Cronin says. A similar study found educational programs that reduced recidivism rates saved Maryland $24 million a year. The educational program cost half as much. Cronin says the study shows correctional facility educational programs are a good investment for Missouri.
"If similar results occur in Missouri, which I would expect given the findings of this study, that would mean the state is currently saving more than $20 million a year in reduced incarceration costs as a result of correctional education programs," Cronin said. "In this political environment, states across the country are looking for ways to save money. This is one program that, in the long run, saves the state money. It is a good investment; an investment that has a high rate of return."