When students mock how schools resemble prisons, schools in prisons are in fact cherished by inmates, especially female prisoners. Recently, three news articles bring up the issue of education in female prisons. In California, female prisoners are trained with computer skills and they obtain certificates after graduation. In Tennessee, women involve in adult education programs where they earn diplomas equivalent to high school degrees. And in Montana, The Department of Corrections is considering adding computer programming classes to state prison education programs to improve inmates’ chances of getting jobs when they finish their sentences.
Internationally, the female prison population has increased 646% in the past three decades, primarily due to inmates receiving sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenses. The United States has 5% of world’s female population but 30% of women in prison, imprisoning more women than any other country.
Facts that women prison population is contributing to mass incarceration and women face more discriminations in job market than men out of prison indicate more investment in education in prisons. However, skeptics argue that it is better to spend tax money on educating law-abiding citizens rather than educating criminals.
Westervelt responded with a 30-year meta-analysis study, “Education is a relatively low-cost program you can provide to inmates. But, when you look simply at direct costs, we find that for every dollar invested in a prison education program it will ultimately save taxpayers between $4 and $5 in reincarceration costs. That’s an enormous savings.” Study shows that education and vocational training in prisons reduce recidivism and improve job outlook. There are plenty of ongoing education programs in prisons of Norway, Germany, South Africa and the Dominican Republic.
But special attention should be paid to the growing population of female inmates. “Women come out unprepared,” said Roberta Meyers-Peeples, Director of the National H.I.R.E. Network, a project of the Legal Action Center. “Skill sets haven’t been updated, and there are no clear goals. There are daily struggles between mothers and children, dealing with agencies and parole, and substance abuse and alcohol.”
When we talk about women’s education and empowerment, we cannot neglect women who live in prison and women who are released but still anxious about leading a normal life. Education on knowledge and practical vocational skills could significantly prepare them for a brand-new start. After all, education is the best chance for them to re-engage in and even add value to society.
Davis, Lois M. (2013). Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook. Rand. org. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html
Erbentraut, Joseph. (2015). What the U.S. Can Learn from Prison Reform Efforts Throughout the World. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/10/prison-reform-international-examples_n_6995132.html
Hanson, Amy Beth. (2015). Prison Considering Computer Programming Training for Inmates. The Washington Times. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/16/prison-considering-computer-programming-training-f/
Infographic: Why The Women Prison Population Is Contributing to Mass Incarceration. (2015). Blacklisted News. Retrieved from http://www.blacklistednews.com/Infographic%3A_Why_the_Women_Prison_Population_is_Contributing_to_Mass_Incarceration/47261/0/38/38/Y/M.html
Richards, Greg. (2015). Inmates Earn Education and Skills in Johnson City Women’s Jail. WCYB.com. Retrieved from http://www.wcyb.com/news/inmates-earn-education-and-skills-in-johnson-city-womens-jail/36530834
Straehley, Steve. (2015). U.S. has 5% of World’s Female Population, but 30% of Women in Prison. AllGov.com. Retrieved from http://www.allgov.com/news/top-stories/us-has-5-of-worlds-female-population-but-30-of-women-in-prison-151122?news=857907
Petley, Devon. (2015). The Education to Employment Link. Retrieved from https://nyunewsdoc.wordpress.com/education/the-education-to-employment-link/
Weise, Elizabeth. (2015). Female prisoners in Calif. Prep for Life Outside with Autodesk certificate. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/11/23/female-prisoners-calif-prep-life-outside-autodesk-degree/76112590/
Westervelt, Eric. (2015). Measuring the Power of a Prison Education. National Public Radio. Retrieved from https://nyunewsdoc.wordpress.com/education/the-education-to-employment-link/