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Education In the US Prison System - Essay Example

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A prison is literally defined as a "place in which individuals are physically confined and usually deprived of a range of personal freedomsthey areconventionally institutions which form part of the criminal justice system of a country, such that imprisonment or incarceration is the penalty imposed by the state for the commission of a crime." ("Wikipedia", 2005).
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Education In the US Prison System
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Since 1980, America's prison population has "more than tripled" (Patel and McMurray, n.d.). Out of this abundant figure, 19% of adult inmates are illiterate; while the United States' national adult illiteracy stands at a comparatively mere 4%. Stemming from this figure are the rates of recidivism in the United States, which are also at a particular high - 41% to 71% of prisoners who are released into the community end up back in prison only a short time after their acquittal. This can quickly be assessed as the obvious impact of expecting unskilled, undereducated, and often improperly socialized persons to be released into the community and make it on their own. In a world where high education is required for practically anything and everything, the thought of having high expectations for a person being thrown back into the world from a life of solitaire and no education in prison seems highly impractical.
Although at one time rehabilitation was a critical goal of the prison system, funding for most educational and rehabilitative programs "has been severed, prioritizing punishment and profit over people." ("PARC", n.d.). The real mission of the prison system now seems to be that of total containment, rather than assistance.
Recent studies have shown an increasing need for special skills for America's workforce for the future. "Inmates, who traditionally do not have good workplace skills, can benefit from education provided during incarceration." (Yeonopolus, n.d.). There are numerous innovative programs for inmates available in prisons across America, some of which are even enforced with penalties if persons decide to resist. In certain prisons, prisoners are being compelled to attend school for specified periods, and those who refuse to comply may be denied parole hearings or "be prevented from participating in alternative forms of 'treatment' until they comply." (Davidson, 1995). The educators who teach in the prison system understand they the persons they are educating require more than just educational skills, they also lack the knowledge of proper personal skills, such as making decisions, working with others, using resources appropriately, and so on. It is this understanding that has, and seemingly will continue to, keep prisoners from reentering the prison system after their release.
There are two basic types of correctional education programs - vocational training, which focuses on the learning of skills that are related to the workplace, and literacy development, which is used to heighten a persons reading and mathematical skills. Each state has a separate list of educational programs offered to inmate; Colorado for example, employs the Correctional Education Program, which strives to provide inmates with skills which will be transferable and useful to them once they leave the penal system by: ensuring their reach the highest academic achievement level possible, preferably obtaining the General Educational Development (GED) Diploma, and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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