Correctional Education as a Crime Control Program

This study compares the cost-effectiveness of these two crime control methods - educating prisoners and expanding prisons. One million dollars spent on correctional education prevents about 600 crimes, while that same money invested in incarceration prevents 350 crimes. Correctional education is almost twice as cost-effective as a crime control policy.

Audrey Bazos
Jessica Hausman
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

State and federal funding for correctional education programs was significantly reduced throughout the 1990s while the total incarcerated population increased. Many states, such as Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa and California, are further slashing correctional education budgets due to the current budget crisis. These states and others, such as Ohio, Michigan and Kansas, are closing prisons to make the necessary cuts in state spending. Budgets need to be cut. But states have a responsibility to protect public safety by controlling crime. This study investigates the possibility that prison education programs are the answer. The vast majority of studies that have studied the impact of in-prison education on future criminal activity have found that  participation reduces crime.  This study focuses its analysis on three studies that took the strongest methodological approach at investigating this relationship.

What the experts say

According to a reviewer:

This resource is extraordinarily valuable for both state level adult basic education programs as well as for any adult basic education program located in a correctional facility location.  The resource sets out the major arguments for education versus increased incarceration rates and provides detailed information and background on relevant theories and studies.  This is an important resource for any administrator focused on supporting correctional education as a means to increase community safety and to lower crime rates by decreasing incarceration rates.

This resource supports the implementation of adult education courses, both vocational training and literacy development, in prisons on the premise that prisoners attending increase literacy and vocational skills along with their ability to work with others.  The conclusion, supported by various other studies, is that adult education of all kinds reduces re-incarceration significantly.

The resource is only 12 pages long.  Most of that is devoted to brief summaries and generalized conclusions of other research studies.   For any adult education entity interested in implementing or expanding adult education in prisons, a study supporting lower recidivism rates because of educational programs would be extremely helpful.  However, instead of turning to this incomplete and general survey, it would be more helpful to go to some of the primary sources listed and reviewed in the appendixes of this document.

The source lacks in-depth analysis. For that, a reader may wish to turn to the sources cited within the study. 

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