by Audrey Bazos and Jessica Hausman
For full report click here.
Spending on prison education
programs fell even as prison populations and budgets soared during the 1980s
and 1990s. In the current budget environment, additional cutbacks in education
programs are expected. Do those reductions make sense, either from a
crime-control perspective or from a long-term budget perspective?
We know expanding prison populations works at reducing crime, but with a very high price tag. Prison capacity expansion has been estimated to prevent 60,000 to 340,000 crimes per year with a respective cost of 200 million to 5.5 billion dollars.
Several studies have shown that prison education programs also significantly reduce crime. Once correctional education participants are released, they are about 10 to 20 percent less likely to re-offend than the average released prisoner.
This study compares the cost-effectiveness of these two crime control methods - educating prisoners and expanding prisons. One million dollars spent on correctional education prevents about 640 crimes, while that same money invested in incarceration prevents 350 crimes. Correctional education is almost twice as cost-effective as a crime control policy.
Additionally, correctional education may actually create long-run net cost savings. Inmates who participate in education programs are less likely to return to prison. For each re-incarceration prevented by education, states save about $20,000. One million dollars invested in education would prevent 26 re-incarcerations, for net savings of $600,000 in the future.