Does providing inmates with education improve postrelease outcomes? A meta-analysis of correctional education programs in the United States [2018]

Our study addresses the question: Does providing inmates with education while incarcerated reduce their chances of recidivism and improve their postrelease employment prospects?

We aggregated 37 years of research (1980–2017) on correctional education and applied meta-analytic techniques. As the basis for our meta-analysis, we identified a total of 57 studies that used recidivism as an outcome and 21 studies that used employment as an outcome. We then applied random-effects regression across the effect sizes abstracted from each of these studies.

When focusing on studies with the highest caliber research designs, we found that inmates participating in correctional education programs were 28% less likely to recidivate when compared with inmates who did not participate in correctional education programs. However, we found that inmates receiving correctional education were as likely to obtain postrelease employment as inmates not receiving correctional education.

Our meta-analysis demonstrates the value in providing inmates with educational opportunities while they serve their sentences if the goal of the program is to reduce recidivism.

Robert Bozick, Jennifer Steele, Lois Davis, Susan Turner

Journal of Experimental Criminology, September 2018, Volume 14, Issue 3