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What if prison was college?

From Jeff Smith's talk it's very obvious that a lot of criminals are very intelligent, even without formal school. In fact one study (1) shows that 1 in 10 high school drop outs end up in jail. Prison is just a waiting game, inmates do not have many amenities, but what they do have is time. In very simple terms the proposal is every inmate is required to be enrolled in the prison's education system. While at this prison inmates must stay in good academic standing and are rewarded for good grades. Failing grades will result in discharge to another prison. After graduation terms of release can be discussed.

What do you think the rate would be for repeat offenses after release?
Is cost the biggest problem with this proposal?


  • Feb 11 2013: For many lawyers it was before they became an attorney.
    It should be a school for them after they become an attorney.

    Education is a good thing but it doesn't necessarily erase the stigma of being a felon.
    They still have to get a job and though their prospects will certainly be better than having none or little in the way of work skills that will pay well, time is not on their side (no pun intended), and for those who have been institutionalized, not finding work could and most likely does, contribute to recidivism.

    Students in the real world manipulate the system in all kinds of ways. So too would inmates.
    Their main reason to study would be successful release from prison.
    But since many have passed through the bars, oops, passed the bar, they then use their skills at deception, dishonesty and so on to make money. I'm talking about lawyers, not felons.

    Today the U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world. Remember this statement.
    Prisons are becoming privately owned businesses. They trade on the stock market. With their fellow criminals, of course.
    To be a successful prison business, to compete with others in your company line, to grow, show and make a profit each year and make profits that increase year to year, your business needs more and more customers, not less.

    That means more criminals are needed to keep these new entrepreneurs in business. Locking people up is a widening, spreading career that many will go into because of the pay and because they are locking people up and not being locked up.
    Remember that line? The U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world?
    Well, the odds of you, your family members, friends and so on, has and will increase in your favor, that you or they will go to prison in your life. This applies to mainly younger folk, most likely 40 years of age and under.
    The answer is yes, too many people are in prison.
  • Feb 11 2013: To some people does college seem like prison? No seriously when Arkansas turns landlords loose on tenants with criminal law and other such things one wonders if too many people are in prison.
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    Feb 11 2013: I know many young people earn their high school diplomas while incarcerated. Do you know how many earn a college degree of some kind there?
    • Feb 12 2013: A total of 9,900 incarcerated students earned certificates in 2009-10, while 2,200 earned associate degrees, and 400 earned bachelor's degrees, the survey found.

      I would like to find statistics on repeat offensives from both college graduates and GED/Diploma graduates. I'll have to dig around more to find the data.

      The United States has over 2 million inmates in prison. 10,000 graduates is .5% of all inmates.
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        Feb 12 2013: I don't know what your broader interests are, but a few months ago I read a book you might really find worthwhile called, I think, Real Notebooks. It was about a writing class offered by the author at a juvenile detention center in, I think, Los Angeles.

        It shows some of the boys writing, thinking, the role the class played for the students, what changed, and what didn't.

        They were almost all in for murder.
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    Feb 10 2013: I like this idea. But I think we need to redefine college. The whole semester, grades, credits might have to be critically looked at. You would have a captive cohort so leveraging the education to ways we know work with cohorts would be a good idea. Something like 6 hour days 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year in instruction. Maybe 3-4 week classes. That type of immersion works well with cohorts.

    But we should figure in trades also. stuff like culinary skills, carpentry, arts, entry level medical skills, vet techs. Those types of activity would have to be carefully monitored and selected for safety reasons. So I would suggest something like 3 hours of instruction with three hours of application per day. People with no purposeful work have esteem issues so I think there should be some type of skills involved.

    I know labor camps are frowned upon for good reason but inmates should be leveraged to help support themselves during their incarceration.

    This is such a better idea than what we currently do.
    • Feb 12 2013: I like the thought of changing how the educational system would need to work. I was originally thinking more "online" style where reading could be done alone in a cell thought I can see how classes and structure would be important.

      As far as activities, this could be saved for the senior year after all classroom work was completed.