BlogInmate Education5 Benefits of Inmate Education

5 Benefits of Inmate Education


Increasingly, it is being reported that education programs for incarcerated individuals are beneficial for those in prison as well as the community at large.

There are many benefits of inmate education that are worth considering. Some of the benefits of inmate education include a reduction in the rate of an individual returning to prison (recidivism) because of committing a new crime; a decrease in disciplinary actions needed while still incarcerated; an improved mental outlook, self-esteem, and confidence for the individual; increased employment opportunities post-release; and an improved prison atmosphere, switching from the mundane and routine environment.

Reduction in Recidivism

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study (compiled data from 2005-14) of 30 states, 68% of released prisoners were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years. Inmate education programs and tools can help change these stats to reduce recidivism.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy reported in their research policy brief the findings of a 2023 study that the chances of formers prisoners returning to prison decreases by 14.8% through prison education programs.

A 2018 meta-analysis study published their findings, “When focusing on studies with the highest caliber research designs, we found that inmates participating in correctional education programs were 28% less likely to recidivate when compared with inmates who did not participate in correctional education programs.” Another meta-analysis study from 2013 found a 43% reduction in recidivism likelihood for prisoners who participate in an education program compared to non-participants.

Even individuals with a life term can benefit by “paying it forward” by using the education and skills they’ve obtained to help other prisoners or by encouraging other prisoners. Education courses can also provide an incarcerated individual with something to focus on and a goal to reach, despite their life term.

Decreased Disciplinary Action While Incarcerated

There are also some unexpected behavioral benefits of inmate education. According to an article by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA, studies demonstrate a connection between inmate education programs and less disciplinary conflicts. He shares, “Confidence comes into play. When the inmate knows there is more to them than the sum of their sentence, they are less likely to act in ways that disrespect themselves and others. Another factor is plain old ‘time’. Studying takes time. Learning engages the mind. A bored, frustrated inmate is more likely to lash out than one whose mind and hands are occupied constructively.”

Improved Mental Outlook

Inmate education programs can also be confidence-builders for incarcerated individuals. Coursework not only improves their focus and provides a goal but also boosts their self-esteem through confirming their knowledge, skills, and abilities. All of this leads to improved and better mental health. Enrolling in an education program also provides the individual with an improved outlook past the mundane routine environment of prison.

Increased Opportunities for Employment Post-Release

One of the most difficult challenges for incarcerated individuals may be finding employment after their release from prison. Again, completion of education programs offered to inmates while incarcerated not only decreases the rate of returning to prison but also could lead to a better outlook for job opportunities.

A 2023 American Journal of Criminal Justice study reported the findings of their research regarding inmate education and post-release employment. They found that formerly incarcerated individuals who were part of an inmate education program were 3.1% more likely to find a job after release than those who were not. They also observed a $564 increase in average yearly earnings.

Economic Impact: Decreased Economic Burden

Finally, inmate education can also positively impact the community at large by reducing the likelihood of repeat crimes committed in the community by an individual. Decreasing recidivism reduces the tax burden caused by housing prisoners. The expense of housing a prisoner is costly. The Federal Register reports that the average annual cost of housing a Federal inmate was $42,672 ($116.91 per day) for FY 2022. The average annual cost for a Federal inmate housed in a Residential Reentry Center for FY 2022 was $39,197 ($107.39 per day).

Education of incarcerated individuals reduces the rate of recidivism, and with this in mind, educating prisoners to help decrease the costs of housing offenders. Decreasing repeat offenders can lead to a smaller incarcerated population, benefitting the entire community.

Final Thoughts

Distance education programs available to incarcerated individuals vary. The Prison Education Guide is just one resource to help inmates decide on the right education program for them.

Blackstone Career Institute offers correspondence a Paralegal certificate program and Advanced Paralegal Courses for incarcerated individuals at a reasonable cost. Many of our students have a sponsor that helps supporting them financially throughout their course. If you are interested in sponsoring an incarcerated friend or loved one to help them reap the benefits of inmate education, please click here for more information.

Perhaps the greatest impact of inmate education is captured by this quote from an incarcerated inmate education program participant:

“Prison education is a means of rehabilitating and re-directing. If you release someone with the same skills with which she came in, she’s going to get involved in the same activities as she did before.”

bio of blogger Jo for Blackstone Career Institute