Increase Funding for Education in Prison to Lower Recidivism Rates

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Bryan Stevenson once said in his book, Just Mercy, “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” Social justice activist Malcolm X stated, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” 

We created the organization, Prevention, Not Punishment, to combine these two quotes together and make a better life for the incarcerated. As Stevenson said, how we treat the incarcerated or disfavored determines who we are as a person, therefore we must treat everyone equitably and give everyone, no matter what they have done equal opportunities. As Stevenson said in Just Mercy, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” The three of us who created Prevention, Not Punishment also believe that education is the key to a successful life. As Malcolm X said, it is the passport to the future, it offers second chances.

That is why we are trying to provide education for prisoners across Illinois, so they can lead a happy, healthy life after their sentences. Research has proven that education, either vocational or academic, has significantly reduced the chance of the prisoner committing the crime again. Although, many colleges in Illinois have either completely stopped or significantly reduced their prison education programs and the state government is not investing a lot in prison education. Subsequently, as the opportunity for education in prison is shrinks, recidivism rates are raising. 

From 2002 to 2009, the vocational programs available in Illinois prisons dropped by forty. Also during this timespan, about 1,300 less inmates were enrolled in these classes. These numbers are still dropping, and it is time to take action against it. That is why we are trying to get signatures from the most amount of people so the state government can recognize and possibly up their budget for educational programs in prison. Therefore these prisoners can get a second chance, or possibly their first chance at a just and normal life. 

It costs about $1,400 to $1,744 to educate a prisoner for one year. There are about 50-70,000 prisoners in Illinois right now, so to educate about 20% of the prisoners in Illinois it would cost around 19 million dollars. This may seem like a lot, but this should be our goal. As we have previously stated, educating these prisoners will significantly decrease recidivism rates. In Illinois, over 45 percent of prisoners come back to prison in the next three years after being released. Since it costs about 120,000 dollars per instance of recidivism, this means that it would costs over 3 billion dollars in the next three years to put these prisoners back in jail. 85 percent of prisoners without education will re-offend.  

This is exactly why you need to sign this petition and help increase funding in Illinois for prison education. With this education, prisoners can learn how to be mechanics or even get a head start on their college degrees. Not only will it save the government money, but it will help turn these prisoners' lives around and make the public much safer.