The Bureau of Justice Statistics states that about 95 percent of all people who go to prison will be released back into their communities after serving their time. It also notes that about 60 percent of those people will return to prison within just three years. The American Council on Education recognizes that earning a college degree while in prison has been shown to greatly decrease the chance of being sent back to prison.

Paying for Prison College Degrees

The United States no longer gives Pell Grants to prisoners.
The United States no longer gives Pell Grants to prisoners.

In 1994, the United States government cut Pell Grants to prison higher education programs. Because of this, fewer prison inmates are able to afford a college education. However, there are some colleges and organizations that work to give students the education that they need to succeed after their sentence at no price to the inmate or the community taxpayer. Some community colleges also offer degree programs to those students who can afford to pay for the classes out-of-pocket.

Psychological Benefits

Those confined to a jail cell benefit psychologically from a college education.
Those confined to a jail cell benefit psychologically from a college education.

Being locked up in a prison cell with no way to express creativity or stimulate the mind has many negative effects on prisoners. Many prisoners are interested in receiving an education because they have a lot of time and energy to devote to studying and learning new things. Earning a college degree can also help the self-esteem of many inmates, especially those who were never able to complete high school or receive any higher education before they began serving their time.

Potential After Jail Time

Prisoners who receive college education are less likely to fail at their jobs.
Prisoners who receive college education are less likely to fail at their jobs.

Prison inmates who are able to earn a college degree while they are in jail have more potential for success after they serve their time. They go back out into society with the knowledge and skills that they gained and have the chance to put what they learned to good use. They have increased opportunities for jobs and earning. They also rely less on family and friends to support them as they transition back into society and make their way.

Community Benefits

Entire communities may see a benefit from educating inmates.
Entire communities may see a benefit from educating inmates.

The entire community benefits when a prison inmate receives a college education. The inmate leaves jail when his sentence is over and gets his own job so he can afford his own house or apartment. The community members, then, pay less money in taxes that go toward placing newly released prisoners in transitional homes. Also, having educated and competent people coming back into the community helps make the community as a whole more positive.