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Boosting the Economy by Educating Prisoners?

Jupiterimages / Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Adults who participate in prison education programs are 43 percent less likely to land back behind bars than their fellow inmates, according to a new RAND Corporation analysis of correctional adult education programs sponsored by the Department of Justice. That could ultimately lead to less money being spent on housing prisoners.

“The results presented here are truly encouraging,” the report states. “RAND researchers show that correctional education reduces postrelease recidivism and does so cost-effectively.”

Right now, about 4 out of every 10 state prisoners will be reincarcerated within three years of their release. But the analysis indicates that investing one dollar in education can reduce incarceration costs by up to five dollars during that same time frame.

Inmate participation rates in educational activities have declined in recent years, partially because of funding cuts.

Most correctional institutions -- 84 percent, according to the analysis -- offer some form of education. In 2004, just 27 percent of state prison inmates said they had participated in vocational training programs, and just 19 percent took high school or GED courses.

More research is needed to figure out exactly which types of programs best serve which populations. The report suggests that states invest in well-designed evaluations of their current programs to do that.

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