Vocational and Educational training for Adult Offenders in Prisons

    The education system in correctional facilities have strongly been considered in the past, but over the period of time, the subject and manner of education and vocational training in correctional facilities have changed.  During the 19th century, the focus of education in correctional facilities was on religious instruction, but during the early 20th century efforts were made to provide rehabilitation through academic and vocational functioning.  During the later part of the 20th century greater efforts were being made to provide post-secondary education.  However, in recent years there has been a drop in sponsorship in education at the vocational and the college level to offenders.  How this is going to impact the correctional facilities is not known.  Most of the prison facilities in the US have some sort of education for the offenders and usually provide general or adult education.  About 80  of the correctional facilities provide social training education and about 60  provide education at the post-secondary level.  Studies have shown that in the past educational programs have been organized in the prisons for several reasons including reduction of idleness and frustration of the prisoners, ensuring that they can serve some use to the public in the future and ensure that the prisoners have training for whatever requirements are needed in the prison.  Another important function of these education programs is rehabilitation and often the educators who conduct these programs and the supervisors who monitor them feel that this is an important aspect of any vocational or education program in the prison.  Effectively such educational programs should be able to prevent any person from reentering the prison premises later from a offence, after release.  The basic need for these programs is to ensure that the prisoners attain a basic mission in life and are employable with the skill-set possessed.  Suppose if the prisoners are left idle in the prison without any kind of training or educational programs, there are chances that they would never attain any kind of skill, get frustrated in life, and when released who be a danger to the society, engaging in crimes and landing up again in such prisons for similar or more serious offences.  There are several opportunities for education and vocational programs in prisons as the offenders are basically with lower levels of education and further do not have the skills for suitable employment.  Besides there is a strong need for having workers with strong skill that can help to meet the labor requirements in the future.  One of the best practices with the vocational skill training facilities lies with the Michigan correctional department.  The employers and the person educators are able to communicate and finally decide what the content of such educational programs is.  This paper tries to analyze the importance of vocational training of the offenders and the use of such programs for employment (Dirkx, 1999). 

    The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) of Canada conducted a study in 2005 to determine the employment programs and services that are available to the female offenders lodged in Canadian prisons and the ways in which such programs could be beneficial for the offenders.  It was noticed that out of the 384 women who were lodged in the prisons about 137 had completed some form of vocational or educational training, including 15  full time and 85 part time.  More than 50  of the women prisoners went in for vocational training, 22 for secondary education, 7  for general education and the remaining for employability programs.  Workplace hazardous material information system, food safety and CPR were the most sought out programs.  The women prisoners strongly felt that their educational needs had to be fulfilled so that in the future the chances of re-offences were reduced.  About 50  of the women who were from the prisons were in fact searching for some kind of a job,  More than 50  of the women who were imprisoned felt that their educational levels were poor since the time of entering the prison.  However, about 25  of the women in the general community felt that their education levels were low (NCJRS, 2009).  The NCJRS provided information regarding female education in prisons.  The women strongly understood the need of such a program and volunteered to take part in such programs.  They felt that they had poor skill-sets and required a new skill-set to help them overcome their frustration (NCJRS, 2009).

    Gaes (2008) conducted a study to determine the impact of prison education programs on the outcomes following release.  This was a meta-analysis that compared various forms of education in the correctional facilities including adult basic education, certifications, vocational trainings, general education for development, apprenticeship, etc.  Some of the forms of training were a method of demonstrating that the inmates received some special education and were capable of doing specialized tasks.  Employers were keen onlookers for such programs and besides the community also got interested in the programs taking place in the prisons.  A few studies also concentrated on determining whether the inmates were interested in further education once released from the prisons.  Most of the studies analysed by Gaes 2008 were to determine the recommitment of the prisoners in further seeking continuing education.  Some of the studies analyzed were to determination wages and participation in employment following release from prison (Gaes, 2008). 

    There were four studies analyzed by Gaes including Chappell 2004, Well 2000, Miller and Drake 2006, and Wilson et al 2000.  Chappell 2004 studied the effect of a range of post-secondary education including academic, graduate, vocational, certificate, degree, etc on recidivism (repeated offences).  There were more than 15 studies that were analyzed between the years 1990 to 1999.  Most of the studies did not have proper controls and there was a form of selection bias.  It was found that those who received post-secondary education recidivated 22  whereas those who did not receive post-secondary education recidivated 41 .  However, this study may have not been a proper analysis.  The effect size in the case group was r-.31 and in the control group was r-.24 (Chappell, 2004). 

    Well 2000 conducted a meta-analysis on 124 studies conducted in correctional facilities and including educational programs.  There was a 38.4  reduction in recidivism and both adults as well as children were included in the studies.  In about 23 cases, the methodological sophistication of the studies conducted by Wells was strong, 40  moderate and 19  weak.  The effect size increased as the studies was stronger, which was contrary to other studies.  Wilson et al (2000) conducted a study that was a meta-analysis and included more than 33 studies which produced 53 comparisons.  The study included 17 vocational trainings, 14 included educational training, 13 post-secondary education, etc.  Wilson noticed that most of the studies included a poor methodology that existed due to lack of comparison and pre-existing differences between the case group and control group.  When the studies were stronger, the intermediary outcomes including social bonding, specific skills, employment and recidivism were improved.  Drake et al (2006) conducted a study in Washington State prisons to determine the cost benefits arising from conductance of educational and vocational training program compared to constructing extra prison infrastructure.  In case of adult programs, the cost-benefits were better when educational and vocational training programs were conducted for adults.  When vocational training was conducted it amounted to 1182 per adult, which had a saving of about  6000 per year for the taxpayer through reduced criminal justice procedures.  If general education was being conducted it had a benefit of  962 per year and the taxpayer had a saving of about  5300. With Vocational training recidivism reduced by 9  and general education by about 7  (Drake, 2006). 

    Studies analyzed have demonstrated that in a huge number of studies people who were imprisoned had low levels of education compared to the general population (when they entered the prisons) and further those who took up vocation, general education or post-educational courses in prisons were low.  The sponsorship or support to such programs was also low.  Only a minority of the offenders understood the importance of such programs including the need for employment, rehabilitation into the community in the future, earning a income, or reducing idleness in prisons (NCJRS, 2009).  Gaes effectively demonstrated through the meta-analysis that high quality education in prisons could help improve the offenders getting back to society after the term, but often studies were poorly designed with several issues such as bias, poor effect size, poor comparison between cases and controls, etc.  However, Gaes also considers that the results could be similar of small effect size as large effect sizes.  Chappell 2004 clearly demonstrated that post-secondary education could reduce recidivism.  Wilson and Well concentrated on the study design and they were able to demonstrate that as the effect size improved as the studies had a stronger design.  Besides, for stronger studies, several intermediary outcomes improved.  Drake effectively demonstrated that the cost-benefits were higher when programs on vocational training and education were organized for adults.  This included savings over infrastructure, social benefits, reduced criminal justice procedures, etc.   

    By studying past literature it has been evident that vocational training, general education and post-secondary education helps to reduce recidivism and ensure that following release the return to criminal activity is reduced.  Besides, as the prisoners have lower levels of frustration and better skills, they can seek employment and earn a good life.  Small effect size designs of the study would have the similar results as the larger studies.  There may be certain issues existing with bias and comparison of the case and the control group.  Besides, it is still not understood which form of education would be beneficial to the inmates including vocational training, certifications, religious training, educational program, post-secondary education, graduate training, post-graduate training, etc.  In the future study designs need to be improved.  The education levels of all the inmates who are recruited in the study should be similar to ensure that they can absorb the instruction and employ the same in their daily practice.  Studies should also be able to use measurements.  In the past, a few studies have considerate the association between reduced recidivism and employment.  Future studies need to consider measurements in this area.  Besides, intermediately outcomes should also be measured.  There is also a need to compare the differences between certification training and those trainings without certifications.  Some of the important differences that can be considered and should be further analyzed include the extent to which new knowledge can be gained or learned and employment can be obtained (Gaes, 2008).  Often there may also be the need to remove any hindrances to training and education in the prisons including substance abuse, violence, etc.  The removal of these hurdles can effectively improve the quality and the benefits of education in the prisons.  There may be other hurdles included such as poor educational facilities, transfers within prisons, early releases, etc.  There would also be the need to target the criminal behavior which may be present through psychotherapy and behavior training programs.  These programs effectively can help to improve the cognitive skills and reduce drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sex offences, etc.  Although these programs may not e court-ordered, evidences suggest that they are very effective and can help reduce recidivism (Dawe, 2007).


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