Wednesday, June 15, 2016

COLUMN: College for Convicts makes case to reduce recidivism

By Brittany Thomas

Prison-education advocate Christopher Zoukis makes a data-driven argument to drastically reduce recidivism via education in his award-winning book, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons.

“It’s important to make the case to the average American that the United States accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world's prisoners,” says Zoukis, who himself is incarcerated at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg in Virginia.

“Sitting in a prison cell thinking about the future and a job is not an easy task for a number of reasons, but the fact is that for 95 percent of us, a day will come when we are once again free and need to locate and secure employment for a sustainable wage. That’s not easy for most ex-convicts.”

Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, College for Convicts shows recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America's mass incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

The book was awarded The Montaigne Medal in 2015 for most thought-provoking book.

“In this book, author Christopher Zoukis, a leading expert in correctional education, lays out a convincing case for providing post-secondary education for our incarcerated population. The statistics are well-known: a huge per-capita prison population in the nation, many prisoners serving sentences on nonviolent drug and immigration violations, the financial and human costs of a huge prison population, and the high rate of recidivism, all of which drain our society of valuable human and monetary resources.” – San Francisco Book Review

To further assist in the challenge of making a sustainable life after prison, Zoukis recently published Prison Education Guide, which offers a comprehensive guide to correspondence courses for prisoners – and it has a great role to play in re-shaping how we think about prison education and its effects on our nation and communities.

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