2.2 million people are incarcerated in the united states— More than any other nation in the world.
People of color and low-income people are disparately impacted by mass incarceration. The experience of incarceration and the consequences of having been to prison - including institutionalized barriers to social welfare programs, housing, employment, voting, higher education, and more - leaves formerly incarcerated people even more likely to remain poor and marginalized. Though the United States spends upwards of $86 billion on corrections each year, incarcerated people are given few resources to facilitate successful re-entry. 90 percent of incarcerated people will be released, but 40 percent will return to prison within three years. Cyclical recidivism weakens communities and families and, in doing so, perpetuates social and economic inequalities.
Education is one of the most effective ways to decrease crime and the financial and societal costs of incarceration.
A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that incarcerated people who participated in education programs were 43% less likely to return to prison than those who did not. Beyond reducing recidivism, education also positions people to successfully re-enter society and make positive impacts on their families and communities.
Providing high quality education programs in jails and prisons is both challenging and costly.
The average literacy level of incarcerated people is well below that of the general population, and between 35 and 40 percent of people in prison have not completed high school. For these reasons, there is a high need for quality education at a variety of learning levels. Meeting the needs of all students is challenging in the best of classrooms, and classrooms in correctional facilities face the additional challenge of underfunding. In 1994, Congress prohibited people in prison from receiving Federal Pell Grants, significantly reducing higher education programs in correctional facilities. Since the economic recession, many Departments of Corrections have had to cut resources for all educational programming. These cuts further limit the Departments’ ability to provide the variety of programs and resources that would best meet the educational needs of incarcerated people.
the Petey Greene Program is working to make a difference.
Since 2008, the Petey Greene Program has been actively working to supplement education programs in jails, prisons, and detention centers – at no cost to prisons or taxpayers. We believe that education is a human right, and that all people should have an opportunity to study.