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Educate prisoners

Posted 6/8/20

In today's edition of the Democrat we featured a story on inmates at the Sullivan County Correctional Facility who have achieved their associates degree through the Hudson Link For Higher Education …

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Educate prisoners

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In today's edition of the Democrat we featured a story on inmates at the Sullivan County Correctional Facility who have achieved their associates degree through the Hudson Link For Higher Education in Prison.

Each year we usually cover at least one graduation ceremony from inside prison walls, whether it be at Sullivan County or Woodbourne Correctional Facility, and whether it be through the Hudson Link Program or the Bard Prison Initiative.

Whenever we cover these events, there's undoubtedly some people who argue there shouldn't be education opportunities in prison. These are criminals, they say. Prison is supposed to be a punishment. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

We feel those arguments are short-sighted and don't recognize the tremendous benefits education offers not just to incarcerated individuals but also to the prison system as a whole and the communities outside their walls.

The majority of people in prison will one day leave and re-enter society. Studies have shown that pursuing higher education while incarcerated vastly reduces recidivism rates. According to data from the Hudson Link, participation in their program reduces recidivism by about 40 percent compared to the New York State average.

Think about that for a moment. That number represents thousands of people who will never return to prison as well as millions of dollars in savings that would have been spent to incarcerate them.

A 2013 Rand Corporation study that covered 30 years of prison education research found that every dollar spent on prison education translates into savings of $4 or $5 on imprisonment costs down the line.

Incarcerated students, representative of all incarcerated people in the United States, are disproportionately people of color and come from neglected neighborhoods. These neighborhoods often have underfunded and under-resourced public schools.

Instead of wasting away in cells, inmates in educational programs can commit themselves to a higher purpose and a new way of life to pursue upon their release.

Besides giving inmates marketable skills and qualifications to secure gainful employment upon leaving prison, the benefits of education extend far beyond what can be numerically quantified.

Education impacts the way you perceive the world and can make you a more empathetic and caring person. Educated people are more likely to be civically engaged and dedicate time to volunteer or philanthropic efforts.

Money spent on education in prisons, whether through donations or government funding, has a positive ripple effect throughout our society.

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