In 2013 the NJ Department of Corrections (NJ DOC) conducted a quantitative analysis of the effects of the Petey Greene Program in five NJ DOC facilities. This study, entitled “Petey Greene: Impact Evaluation,” analyzed the key metrics of our program and found that students who participated in our program achieved statistically significant improvements in their math and reading functional levels as compared with those who did not. Participation in the Petey Greene Program was also associated with higher GED passing rates.*
The study, which controlled for demographic and sentencing factors, used a rigorous matching design to measure differences in test score improvement between the experimental group (students who received a tutor) and the control group (those who did not).
Three of the five institutions that offer Petey Greene tutoring generated a sample large enough to demonstrate that students who received math tutoring accelerated by more than one full grade level in math over the course of a semester of tutoring, with statistical significance. There was a similarly strong positive correlation between tutoring and improvements in reading level, such that students who worked with a tutor accelerated by more than one full grade level in a single semester.
GED pass rates reflect similar gains. Tutored students who were preparing for their GED passed at a rate of 90%, compared with 83% for students who were not tutored. The impact of higher passage rates is notable according to prison administrators, who have expressed that every additional person who takes and passes the GED serves as an example of achievement to others.
Additional benefits of both one-on-one and small group tutoring were recorded through evaluations written by prison staff and tutors. These include descriptions of reduced violence in prison, increased attentiveness in class, higher self-esteem, and an increased optimism about the future.
While reduced recidivism rates are often the single criterion used to assess the efficacy of prison education, the true impact of such programs and the opportunity for further education are profound, and harder to quantify. Approximately 10,000 people are released from NJ DOC custody each year, and over 700,000 are released from custody nationwide. The benefits of returning thousands of better educated people to society each year with improved self-esteem, a more positive outlook, and improved job-related skills are immeasurable. The foundations of a good education and the infinite possibilities it holds are life-changing.
*Functional levels are the primary metric for education reform initiatives and compare pre-test and post-test results as measured on a Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). The results measure “grade level” changes, i.e., “reading improves from a second grade to a third grade level.” Federal adult educational grants are generally awarded based on the performance of students vis-à-vis achievement of functional level standards. Pass rates for the GED exam is self-explanatory.
There is ample evidence showing that education is one of the most important aspects of a rehabilitative prison experience.
The most widely-cited evidence for prison education's beneficial effects comes from a study released in 2013 by the RAND Corporation. The RAND Correctional Education Project found that correctional education improves outcomes for people who are later released from prison. Read more about the study here.