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New York: Prison College Program Reduces Recidivism, Receives More Funding

Gus Bethea "never imagined [he'd] be a college graduate.” The 33-year-old overcame the challenges of in-prison education, such as outdated textbooks and lack of Internet access, to complete a college degree program while serving time on a robbery conviction. “We just appreciate it so much more because we’ve had everything taken away,” he said.

According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, between September 2014 and August 2015, 72 prisoners graduated with associate degrees, 46 earned bachelor’s and 11 received master’s. About 3% of roughly 52,000 prisoners in New York’s prison system participated in college courses during the same time period.

A study compared the recidivism rate of state prisoners with college degrees to that of the general prison population. Only 2% of the college-educated cohort returned to prison for new felony convictions, as opposed to 9% of general population prisoners. Those who returned to prison within a three-year period for other reasons (parole violations, for example) totaled 13% of the college program participants versus 42% of general population prisoners.

On June 14, 2016, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced that it had reached an agreement with New York officials to allocate $7.5 million in bank forfeiture funds to college programs in state prisons. To further pave the way for prisoners to participate in higher education courses, Pell grants will soon be available to incarcerated students as part of a pilot program. [See: PLN, Oct. 2016, p.45]. 


Source: Wall Street Journal