A Positive Perspective on Prison Education

Many people would agree that continuing an education is key to surviving in society. Therefore, education is very vital for every individual to maintain, regardless of how or where they obtain it. Even though people believe that education is important, many people disagree with education being taught in prison. Prison education is providing inmates with an opportunity to enhance their education. They are offered general education courses needed to attain a G. E. D, and courses they need for a higher education.

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Many of the inmates are high school dropouts or have an eighth grade education or less; therefore, they need to receive an education. For that reason, by educating prisoners it provides an opportunity for them to learn how to become better readers and expand their knowledge. As stated by James Vacca in his article “ Educated Prisoners are Less Likely to Return to Prison,” “their reasons for dropping out of school included a greater rate of grade retention, school transfers, misbehavior, poor attendance, and poor grades.

Inmates also experienced less time in extracurricular activities and very little time with a school counselor during their time in school” (301). For many people to succeed they have to be motivated , it’s always hard to stay focused when so many obstacles are put in front of anyone. Education can reinforce goals people have, their culture beliefs, and how important education really is. Many people lose that focus when they feel that they are not meeting up to the expectation given to them, once that occurs they lose their desire to have a gratifying and productive life.

Therefore, by providing prisoners opportunities for education benefits society as well as inmates because education will help them adjust to civilization, reduce inmate recidivism rates, and improve their social skills. The idea of prison education has changed over time, it has gone from total separation to unification . Decades ago prison education was seen as merely keeping the prisoners separated from one another because they thought by keeping the prisoners together would contaminate one another and they would never be able to learn their lesson.

Prison education was first implemented in 1798 and was known as “the most beneficial employment” (Williford 19). Miriam Williford’s book “Higher Education in Prisons: A contradiction in Terms? ,” states by the 1820s the Pennsylvania and Auburn systems were developed, and these systems were to ensure that nothing went wrong (20). The Pennsylvania System, which was also known as the separate and silent system, kept every prisoner separate from one another and were not allowed to speak to one each other.

Since the inmates were kept separated, they were given nightly sessions with the chaplain, the first prison teacher, to go over readings from the bible, along with elementary and moral education. With the Pennsylvania System, they believed keeping the prisoners separate would give them time to rethink their crimes, and eventually decided they would never commit another crime because they did not want to go through that punishment again. Many of the inmates could not read so the Pennsylvania System felt it was necessary to educate the prisoners.

Due to the fact that without knowing how to read or understand anything, how would they be able to reflect on their life of crime. Although today prison does not keep inmates separate on a daily bases some inmates do experience the separate and silent treatment today, it is known as solitary confinement. Plus, just like today the prisons back then became overcrowded so the Pennsylvania system had to adjust to the amount of prisoners they had and begin housing inmates together.

At the same time, the Auburn system, which was known as the congregate and silent system started to develop, and has stated that the Pennsylvania System was wrong because prisoners should have some contact with other humans and seen as inhumane. This is also due to the fact that since people had no contact with anyone else it seemed to make them develop mental issues from solitary confinement and boredom. The Auburn system allowed inmates to eat and work together but they were still forbidden to talk to one another. With this system they felt educating inmates would just take away time and the prisoners did not need to be taught.

According to Stephen Allen, one of the founders of the Auburn system stated, educational efforts in prison were unwise because they took time away from the inmate’s labor, that criminals had not the same claim upon our commiseration that the honest and unfortunate part of our species have . . . the system of attention, kindness, and forbearance, has failed, and will fail . . . (Williford 20-21). As one can see the thought of education in prison has been around for quite a while but many of the attempts have failed because of the system being used.

However, with the system that is now being offered, inmates have a better chance of succeeding and staying out of prison. Educating inmates correctly can help inmates become more aware of the consequences and lessen their chances of returning to prison. Education is always worth the time and effort and can always increase a persons stability in life. However, when people think of prison, of course they think of the uneducated individuals that are committing these crimes, but there are educated individuals that are committing crimes too.

As stated by Shimon Soferr in his article “Prison Education: is it Worth it? ” “Though crime is no means limited to uneducated offenders, people whose humanity has been restored though dedicated education in prison tend to prefer a crimeless life after release” (2). This goes to show how important education in prison is to inmates. Being able to take courses and improve their lives when they thought it could never happen, makes people want to change their lives and become apart of society in a way they have never really fit in. Plus when inmates arrive to prison they are automatically assessed.

In the article “A Large-Scale Multidimensional Test of the Effects of Prison Education Programs on Offenders Behavior” by Kenneth Adams, he discusses how education programs also focus on inmates behaviors at the time they are housed in jail, and improve their behaviors after they are released from prison (1). That is exactly what inmates need, they need to know what is available to them and know they can achieve that goal. At the same time inmates are more likely to participates in programs offered to them when they know it will help them succeed after being released from prison (Vacca 300).

There are many ways why prison education is very beneficial and not a waste of time. For example, education in prison helps prepare the inmates in adjusting to society. According to Age Diseth, Ole-Johan Eikeland, Terje Manger, and Hilde Hetland they state in their article “Education of Prison Inmates: Course Experience, Motivation, and Learning Strategies as indicators of Evaluation,” that in addition to lowering inmates recidivism rates, education in prison can also help inmates improve their attitudes, raise their self-esteem and help increase opportunities for employment after being released (201).

Many of the inmates are in prison for years at a time and all they know is living the prison way day after day. Upon release many of the inmates are not too sure what to expect from society and their families. They are used to a life of following orders and staying confined in one room for most of the day and sometimes have trouble adjusting to the ways of society. Therefore, by educating inmates they will be able to live in society comfortably and without any worries. As a result, with the help of education programs inside prison, many inmates continue to obtain their education after they are released (Adams 1).

Furthermore, many of the inmates feel motivated after they take courses because at that point in their lives they can see themselves succeeding, and by seeing that they are more open to improving their lives. Another example to why education in prison is helpful for prisoners is because education improves inmates attitudes towards life and the values they live their lives by. John Linton states in his article “ Inmate Education Makes Sense,” he argues by maintaining a higher education, inmates are able to acknowledge that they can have be successful in life, and have a positive outlook in society (1).

For a majority of people that is their goal in life, to be successful and be able to contribute to society, so there’s no reason why inmates shouldn’t have the same perspective and with an education they can achieve that goal. With education inmates are able to gain a wider sense of direction and greater knowledge to help them change their perception on life. At the time many prisoner enter prison they have an “ I don’t care” type of attitude and could careless about what happens to them. However, despite that attitude after many inmates realize the opportunities they are offered in jail, their attitude changes when they begin the programs.

When looking at education programs in prison, one can see that crime rates in prison and recidivism rates are decreasing because of the number of inmates participating in education programs. Having inmates participate in beneficial educational courses shows a decrease in prison violence and prisoners behaviors (Vacca 297). For inmates who are participating in education programs are too occupied in focusing on their school work; therefore, they are less likely to be involved in prison crimes towards other inmates, themselves, and prison employees.

At the same time their self-esteem begins to increase because once they are involved in programs, some inmates start to believe that they are worthy enough to succeed and can contribute to their families’ well-being and offer more to society than just a life of crime. While the programs are helping the inmates stay focused they are also helping inmates plan for a better life outside of prison (Diseth, et al. 201). However, in order for many inmates to succeed, the education programs being offered are based on the inmates needs and by focusing on their needs, this shows a decrease in the recidivism rates as well (Vacca 299).

By doing so this will lessen the amount of people who are in prison and reduce prison overcrowding and reduce the amount of money being spent to house inmates. This a problem everywhere in the United States, as stated by John Garmon in his article “Higher Education for Prisoners Will Lower Rates for Taxpayers” he states, California has built twenty-one new prisons since 1980; the inmate population has multiplied sevenfold. The cost for these new prisons is $5. 3 Billion dollars. Another $4. 8 billion annually is required to house the state’s 160,000 inmates. In the United States it costs about $20,000 per year to imprison an inmate.

Multiply this number by $1. 6 million, the number of people locked in prison in this country, and you will see how expensive incarceration can be (1). By looking at these numbers one would realize how important educating prisoners really is for society and inmates. In the long run helping prisoners succeed will save taxpayers and the government a huge amount of money that can be used for something else. On the other hand, prison education also has its downfalls. There are many people that disagree with education in prison because they don’t see inmates worthy enough of being taught.

This view can come from society and some prison employees. Many times there is a disagreement over educating prisoners because some correctional officers believe that inmates are receiving something free that they themselves might not be able to obtain (Williford 5). Plus, since some of the prison employees disagree with educating prisoners they sometimes disrupt the classes on purpose as stated by Howard S. Davidson in his boo “Schooling in a Total Institution: Critical Perspectives on Prison Education” (29). This takes time away from the prisoners to get their work done and be able to learn efficiently with the distractions.

Another reason why people believe that education program in prisons are a waste of time and money is because they believe “ the challenge ahead of educators is that many prisoners lack self-confidence and have a negative attitude towards school. Exacerbating these problems are prison environments that are not rich in verbal and sensory stimuli” ( Vacca 301). Meaning that trying to educate these individuals will only make them worse. The really have no thrive to learn so they would be wasting their time trying to teach the prisoners. Although this only occurs in some prisons this is still a huge problem in the prison education system.

Furthermore, some of the instructors they hire to teach the inmates lack the correct qualifications and experience to efficiently educated the inmates, they are often known as “second-class instructor” (Williford 82). What good does that offer to inmates, they themselves are lost and misguided, and by bringing in instructors that are not capable of maintaining a job anywhere else will only make matters worse. Even though inmates continue their education after being released is positive, at the same time it can have a negative effect on the inmate. Once an ex-convict attends on-campus college courses they sometimes find it hard to keep up.

Inmates are used to the education system in prison and have a hard time adjusting to the standards of the university. In prison, education is quite easy because the prisoners are not asked to complete a lot of work or apply themselves as much as they would in a college classroom. In addition, with the belief that college courses are not equal to the classes taught at a university, inmates are not held to the same requirements as university students (Williford 82). Plus while the inmates are receiving the basic education once they attend a college or university they find that the university setting is more advanced than they are.

Therefore, they tend to get intimidated and drop out of college. Society has to remember that inmates are human beings too, and sometimes they need an extra push to improve their lives. Although many people perceive inmates as just criminals, they are still apart of society, and it is very vital to ensure they are well-rounded into societies ways once they are released from prison (Garmon 1). Education is always a great tool regardless of where someone receives their education, it will be very valuable for their lives.

When looking back at the past attempts to correct or cure these criminals, one can see that the systems developed did not work. However, today’s system looks more dedicated in rehabilitating inmates and providing them with a life they did not have before prison. As stated by Charles B. Ubah and Robert L. Robertson, in their article “A Grounded Look at the Debate Over Prison-Based Education: Optimistic Theory Verses Pessimistic Worldwide,” they argue education in prison is very important for inmates who will be entering into society again (119).

Therefore, they need to be taught and have options to improve their lives instead of just locking them in a cell and hope they will learn their lesson. That techniques would never work, people need to learn there is more than just committing crimes and with education prisoners will be able to see that perspective. Marc Maeyer states in his article “Education in Prison,” that “ education in prison provided each and every person with an opportunity to decide their own individual reality, an opportunity to take stock of the situation, a new (or first) opportunity to learn, to discover the joy of learning .

. . ” (124). The ultimate goal of educating inmates in prison is to reduce inmates recidivism rates and help the inmates become citizens, better parents and successful workers. Therefore, education today, is more than ever before, and people must see clearly the dual objectives: education is for maintaining a better life of living and provides a sense of acceptance and gratification.