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Bringing college to jail cells helps criminals reform themselves

How would you feel if people who were in jail or prison were given a college education during their time behind bars? Keep in mind, this won't exactly be the college experience that everyone has come to know. There wouldn't be a huge Inmate Tech vs. Prison Guards A&M game on the second Saturday in October.

Instead, the premise is a very tangible idea that allows people in jail or prison to use the time they are spending behind bars wisely. They can get an education, and then when they are reintroduced to society they will be more able to contribute. They will have some basic -- and even advanced -- skills to bring to the workplace, and with their time occupied at a stimulating job, they are less likely to become criminals again.

That last bit isn't just a fantasy. A meta-analysis of 58 studies that looked at college prison plans and how they affected inmates when they were released. As it turns out, 43 percent of the people who used the college prison program did not reoffend when they got out of prison.

So why, then, do only about one third of prisons utilize college prison plans while 76 percent of prisons utilize high school diploma programs? Ultimately prison is about reforming and correcting the individuals who inhabit it, save a select group who are in prison for extreme cases. The topic of prison reform gets thrown around a lot nowadays, and maybe this would be a good place to start. Allowing people who are behind bars to improve themselves doesn't make them more dangerous -- it gives them a better chance to be a productive member of society.

Source: New York Times, "College for Criminals," Bill Keller, April 9, 2014

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