Policymakers neglect prison education and re-entry programs, former inmate Kevin Ring told a House of Representative committee, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Testifying before the committee, Ring, who is currently a criminal justice reform advocate, said, “I saw little to no rehabilitation in prison. There were few useful programs. The institution was either understaffed or uninterested in providing worthwhile programming.”
While focusing on the overcrowding of prisons by undoing the “tough on crime” policies of the 80’s and 90’s, policy-makers have overlooked the prison education and re-entry programs that have been demonstrated to lower recidivism and build safer communities, reported U.S. News.
According to a 2013 Rand study, inmates who took college programs are 43 percent less likely to recidivate than those who did not.
A program such as the Entrepreneurship Program in Texas helps inmate develop skills and provides housing and employment support when they are released. Many graduates of the program have started their own businesses and only 7 percent recidivate within three years of their release, the U.S. News & World Report said.
Meanwhile, the Prison University Project (PUP) offered at San Quentin Prison has helped inmates earn associate degrees through Patten University. Twenty percent of those graduates recidivate within three years of their release. In comparison, 44.6 percent of California’s parolees recidivate.
San Quentin inmates who have taken part in the prison college program believe that their college experiences have been life-changing.
“College has taught me how to look at life from different angles,” said Danny Nha Ho, who graduated this summer from Patten University. “It has helped me to be open-minded.”
Similarly, Alan Fredrick, who has been incarcerated for about 33 years, earned an Associate Degree from Hartnell Community College in Soledad prison. He said it has helped improve his mental state.
“I received a large amount of self-worth. After graduating, I was proud of myself, considering that I had dropped out after the eighth grade,” Fredrick said.
Both Fredrick and Ho agreed that the college program is not for everyone, but said that inmates who stay in the program are less likely to make decisions that will put themselves back in prison.