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The Practical Differences of Higher Education in Prison

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Abstract What began in 1971 as a "War on Drugs," led to the political position of being "tough on crime" and has ultimately given birth to the mass incarceration crisis

Abstract What began in 1971 as a "War on Drugs," led to the political position of being "tough on crime" and has ultimately given birth to the mass incarceration crisis that we see in 2017. The United States composes 5% of the world's population, yet holds 25% of the world's incarcerated. At least 95% of those incarcerated in the United States will be released at some time and each year, 690,000 people are released from our prisons. These "criminals" become our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends. However, the unfortunate reality is that they will go back to prison sooner than we can embrace them. In order to end this cycle of recidivism, higher education in prison must be made more available and encouraged. Those who participate in education programs while incarcerated have a 43% less chance of recidivating than those inmates who do not participate. This thesis dissects that statistic, focusing on higher education and the impact it has on incarcerated students, how it affects society as a whole, and the many reasons why we should be actively advocating for it. Additionally, I wish to demonstrate that students, educators, and volunteers, as a collective, have the power to potentially change the punitive function of the prison system. That power has been within education all along. While statistics and existing research will play heavily in the coming pages, so will anecdotes, first-hand experiences, assessments of established programs, and problems that still need to be overcome. By no means are the following pages a means to an end, but rather a new beginning in the effort to change the interpretation of being "tough on crime." Keywords: higher education, prison, recidivism

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  • 2016-12