Ex-cons with higher education less likely to reoffend

This editorial appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Ill-equipped in many cases to meet the challenges of the outside world, released prisoners often revert to the lifestyle that put them behind bars in the first place: criminal behavior.

That we often refer to our prisons as "correctional" facilities could be considered a bit of dark humor. Nationally, the rate of recidivism is 43.3 percent within three years.

Figures fluctuate considerably, but a report on Connecticut recidivism issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2012 found that of the 14,400 men who were released from prison in 2005, nearly 80 percent had been arrested again by 2010.

Anything we can do to help ex-prisoners re-enter the workplace is good for them, and good for all of us.

That's why we fully support a bill introduced in Washington this week by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal that would let inmates join the pool of students who apply every year for federal Pell grants, so named for U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I.

And what's a bill without a snappy acronym? Blumenthal's bill - introduced with fellow Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii - is named the Restoring Education and Learning Act, and now referred to as the REAL Act.

Applicants must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid, also known as the FAFSA, a painstakingly comprehensive form whose completion is a sort of annual rite in many American households. The grant awards are calculated on need. And since they are grants, not loans, they don't have to be repaid.

Until 1994, prisoners were eligible to apply for the grants.

Blumenthal cited a Texas study in proposing his legislation.

That study, issued by the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 2003 at Texas Southern University in Houston, found that an inmate who earned a high school diploma before release was 24 percent less likely to return to prison. The recidivism rate among inmates who completed two years of college was 10 percent, and the rate among four-year college students was 5.6 percent.

Inmates who earned a master's degree had a recidivism rate of less than 1 percent.

The benefits seem clear.

If our prisons are to be something more than storage facilities for offenders, many of whom are non-violent offenders, it is to all of our benefit to prepare them for life outside the walls.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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