Fewer than five percent of prisoners nationwide are currently enrolled in college classes, according to a new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy. The report includes recommendations to increase prisoner participation in postsecondary education as a means to reduce recidivism by providing inmates with career skills.

Recidivism—the rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison of former prisoners—has contributed to a rapidly growing prison population in the U.S. that costs American taxpayers nearly $30 billion annually.

To better understand the status, funding, and implementation of postsecondary correctional education programs in the U.S., the Institute conducted a national survey that yielded input from correctional education administrators from 45 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Results of the survey, along with additional data and analysis, are detailed in the new report, “Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy.”

In 2003 and 2004, some 85,000 prisoners—fewer than 5 percent of the total prison population—were taking college courses, according to the report.

“Prisoners are serving longer sentences than in the past but are frequently released without the education or skills necessary to find productive employment,” says Jamie Merisotis, president of the Institute. “Offering postsecondary education to inmates seems less ‘soft on crime’ and more a cost-effective means to reduce recidivism and gain control of the mounting tax burden.”

To view this report, visit www.ihep.org.

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