Dear Mr. Charles Ryan, Director of Arizona Department of Corrections,
As a college student at the University of Arizona, I am very concerned with the educational budget cuts, which since 2008 have been reduced by 21.8%. In Arizona we have currently reached the point where our prison spending has exceeded our educational funding. After doing some research as to why this might be the case, I noticed that within the last 10 years the spending, for Correctional Facilities, has increased by 75%. (Online degrees, 2012)
Although this may be a beneficial factor, because a reason that prison funding has increased, is due to the rise of the intake of prisoners. As a result this means that more criminals are kept off the streets and will lead to lower crime activity. However, the Arizona Department of Corrections has quite the elaborate system that promotes education behind bars; where 5 programs are offered such as “GED Preparation Program,” “Work-Based Education,” etc.
Although its been demonstrated that “offenders who participated in educational programs while imprisoned had lower rates of recidivism,” (Duwe, Clark, 2014) the budget spent on these programs I believe would be better if spent on improving the education of our youth rather than our offenders.
Such problem deserving funding is that society is experiencing is an increase in the amount of “Homeless Students,” whom eventually decide to not to receive their education due to their non-stable home lives, which can explain their poor academic performance. In 2010 the amount of homeless students reached an all time high of 1 million and the numbers are expected to rise. (Clemmitt, 2013) With little education, the fate of these children will most likely result to a life in poverty. If money spent from the education of inmates was put towards helping schools locate these children in order to help them be enrolled in their schools, it would decrease the likelihood of impoverished lives, and in turn would potentially reduce crime activity due to lack of education in the long run.
Another problem that exists with inmates receiving their education is that the number of college graduates continues to rise as the availability of jobs decline. The number of college graduates in 2014 alone was around 31.1 million and the numbers are expected to increase. (US department of education, 2014) That being said, the job market is already extremely competitive. Adding even more competition by allowing prisoners to obtain their degrees will ultimately hurt some of the job opportunities for students who have been studying, working, and spending in order to obtain their careers.
Not only are there other problems that the money from these programs could be used for, but there is also the sense that prisoners are not taking advantage of the programs offered. There was a study done where 20% of inmates who were provided enrollment into an educational program refused to participate due to “doubts regarding effectiveness, stigma concerns, lack of motivation, and lack of programs that address their specific mental health need.” (Tripodi, 2, 2014) Since quite a few prisoners are refusing to obtain the benefits of these programs, the tax dollars that are put forth towards them are essentially going to waste.
Yes. Prisoners are people too, and deserve to achieve an education if they so desire. However there are other means of promoting education throughout the walls of a prison, where money would not have to be an issue. An article titled “Let Prisoner’s Take College Courses,” written by an inmate named John J. Lennon, advocates for the screening of MOOC’s (massive open online lectures) on the Television sets, which are watched daily by inmates. These are lectures by professors that are already free to the public and thus will be free to provide to the prisoners. That way less money can be spent on these programs that involve paying teachers, buying school material, etc., where lack of participation among prisoners is a problem. This would allow the prisoners to decide for themselves how much they would value to obtain an education, and all they would have to do would be to change the channel on a television set.
I am addressing you in hopes that my stance on this controversy will influence your future decision making when it comes to the possibility of increasing funds for educational programs for inmates.
A University of Arizona College Student