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Forum Post: Prison Education – What no one talks about

Posted 1 year ago on March 20, 2013, 11:05 p.m. EST by GirlFriday (17435)
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Why bother spending tax dollars and investing time, resources, and energy in educating incarcerated felons? It’s easy to lock people away as degenerates and forget about them. I know I never gave inmates in general much of a second thought…That is, until I entered the system as a teacher and became acutely aware of the big picture: Prisoners who receive their GEDs and/or vocational certifications have lower rates of recidivism than those who do not. Inmates who are actively engaged in education are also less likely to riot or engage in individual violence, whether inmate-on-inmate or inmate-on-staff. Plenty of studies support these assertions. So you see, what goes on behind bars is as critical to society, communities, and prison staff as it is to the inmates themselves.

Recently, I voluntarily left a job as an academic instructor in a privatized prison. I had been in that position for 28 months. While that doesn’t sound long, in my experience that is practically considered longevity: During that relatively short time, out of a total of 5 academic classes and 6 vocational classes, 4 academic teachers (not including myself), 2 vocational instructors, and 2 substitute teachers left. In fact, even more relevant, all of them except for one sub QUIT of their own volition. This does not include the 3 vocational instructors who retired in that same amount of time. Turnover is a huge problem. Not only did I witness the multiple issues with inmate education first hand, but I have also explored it in depth as part of my doctoral program as I am planning a thesis in prison academics. Although my personal experiences are limited to one state, my research has revealed that the challenges I faced are pervasive throughout the United States. And the same challenges permeate both private and government-run prisons.

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