Funding for educational programs in prisons has almost been completely demolished. According to an article by Gillian Granoff, “In 1994 the government issued a federal crime bill, which made inmates ineligible to receive Pell Grants that had provided scholarships for prisoners to earn a bachelors degree while incarcerated.” Furthermore, in terms of spending, “Funding for prison college programs were eliminated, leading to the closing of some 350 such programs nationwide. Many states, including New York, barred inmates from taking college extension courses. Even secondary education programs suffered.” My question is then, why are we cutting funding and making it nearly impossible for inmates to get an education when our justice system is supposed to be (at least somewhat) about rehabilitation? It does not seem as though these new policies are in correlation with the values that the judicial system was based upon.
Researchers have even found that keeping a prisoner in jail for one year instead of sending that person to college is ten times more costly. So, if it is not about the money then why not implement educational programs in prisons? My theory is that the judicial system is no longer concerned with rehabilitation or even with the rights or well being of inmates.
Because the judicial system is terrified of this image being spread, some people in defense of the system have come up with five ways in which universities and prisons will be linked to “improve the education of inmates.” These include book drives for inmates, GED tutoring program, and some actual college level courses. Although Gillian Granoff views these programs in an extremely positive light and as a huge accomplishment I would beg to differ. Yes these programs are probably great however; there are only five of them! We have over 1,200 prisons in the United States and Gillian Granoff can only come up with five higher learning programs for these approximately two million people? Something is wrong, this cannot be a good thing and I would highly suggest that she and the readers of this article think critically about the right to education.