Argumentative Research Report: Providing Free College Education to Prisoners

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Argumentative Research Report: Providing Free College Education to Prisoners

There is a general agreement within society today that there is some sort of stark reform that is necessary within the purview of the prison system here. Naturally, there have been a large number of possible solutions that have been put forth, with varying degrees of success and overall practicality. However, out of all of these suggestions, there can be little doubt that perhaps the most practical and effective here is that of providing a free college education to prisoners. This solution is one that would be especially effective because it would directly improve not just the prisoners themselves, but society as a whole. The background of the topic is simple: prisoners need an education because greater amounts of education are directly correlated with decreases in overall risk of going to prison in the first place. Therefore, the purpose of this report is to demonstrate some of the reasons for how and why free college education can and should be provided to prisoners.

Perhaps the most salient of these reasons is that this college education would help to prevent recidivism within the prisoners themselves. According to one source, recidivism rates for those who took college education programs in prison were 9.4 percent, compared with 17.1 percent for those who did not, nearly double the number (Kim & Clark, 2013). Of course, this concept is one that is true in the general sense as well. According to another source, educational attainment is correlated with a 23 percent gap in incarceration rates as a whole (Lochner & Moretti, 2004). It seems, then, that education and prison are like oil and water in the sense that they are diametrically opposed concepts. In this regard, instituting college education courses in prison would be like killing two birds with one stone, by providing an education while simultaneously reducing the rate of recidivism.

Providing college education courses also allows for the state to save a great deal of money compared to offering these same courses outside of prisons. Indeed, another source states that education of felons actually eliminates the costs that are commonly associated with long-term warehousing, as well as replacing the need for an actual academic setting (Esperian, 2010). This allows for the provision of these college courses to prisoners to be much greater than the sum of their parts. Furthermore, as another source points out, prison college education courses serve to encourage pro-social attitudes and help to provide dispositions that help to normalize the inmates here, allowing them to reintegrate back into society much more easily (Gaes, 2008). Of course, the very nature of this college education for these prisoners means that they will be more likely to succeed within society since they will have a greater amount of knowledge with which to pursue a career.

Ultimately, this issue is one that demonstrates a clear need for there to be some sort of effort put into ensuring that prisoners are provided access to these college education programs. The core recommendation in this regard is for the state to begin budgeting for different, experimental, if need be, programs that will allow for these prisoners to have a greater chance at finding and maintaining gainful employment after they have left the prison system. If this is implemented, then it is obvious that recidivism rates will drastically decline. In the future, there will likely be more and more of a movement toward greater amounts of education as a whole, and education prisoners in this way will allow for states to save a great deal of money, and awareness of this will only continue to increase in the future. Education is a key priority in society today and emphasizing this education for prisoners will be cost-effective and improve society at the same time.


Esperian, J. H. (2010). The effect of prison education programs on recidivism. Journal of Correctional Education, 316-334.

Gaes, G. G. (2008). The impact of prison education programs on post-release outcomes. Reentry Roundtable on Education, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, March, 31.

Kim, R. H., & Clark, D. (2013). The effect of prison-based college education programs on recidivism: Propensity score matching approach. Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(3), 196-204.

Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004). The effect of education on crime: Evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports. American Economic Review, 94(1), 155-189.