Could College For Convicts Less Recividism?

I was reading an article by Professor Charles J. Reid, Jr. discussing rather education could lower recidivism rates. He references Christopher Zoukis’ book, College For Convicts.  I thought Reid had some great points and I wanted to discuss them here in this post.

In College For Convicts, Zoukis suggested that maybe if inmates get degrees, their odds of going back to prison and committing a crime could lessen.

“Among inmates who have completed high school courses, recidivism rates drop to 54.6 percent. Those who complete high school or the GED have an even lower rate. Vocational training brings recidivism down to approximately 30 percent. For prisoners who attain an associate’s degree: 13.7 percent recidivism. For prisoners who attain a bachelor’s degree: only 5.6 percent recidivism. And for prisoners who attain a master’s degree: 0 percent recidivism. Zero!” (p. 13)”

I’ve never read this book, but based on my experiences maybe there is a point to this evidence. People commit crimes because of lack of money and resources. I spent time with inmates who committed crimes because they couldn’t get the money they need to handle the responsivities they needed to handle.  Most of these individuals had worked at minimum wages jobs and couldn’t get high end jobs. This is because they had skills or education to compete at higher end jobs.

It’s easy to see why. Let’s look at the salaries of individuals of difference educational levels. According to an article on Chron.com,, “Those [who have records or not] with no high school diplomas had the lowest median earnings of $23,452 per year and the highest unemployment rate of 14.1 percent (of 2011).”

I’ve served time with inmates who never had a GED. And as I mentioned in my book Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, it is possible that inmates could serve their entire sentence without getting their GED.

They are very likely to be unemployed, which is usually a violation of probation. It also puts the inmate in a position where they cannot compete for jobs, giving them the impression that they would need to commit crimes to pay bills.

Education Level Average Salary Unemployment Rate
No High School or GED 23,452 14.1
High School Diploma 33,176 9.4
Associates Degree 39,936 6.8
Bachelor’s Degree 54,756 4.2
Master’s Degree 65,676 3.6

I’m not saying that formerly incarcerated individuals with master’s degrees will be making $65,000 or more a year. I am saying that based on those stats, I can see how an inmate with a high degree could lessen his chances of returning to prison. He would more likely work for a job he likes. He would more likely work for a job that benefits many people and feel rewarded.

Also, he would have the chance to make the money he needs to live the life he wants to live. Without the degree, the inmate could have to hope self-employment or entrepreneur opportunities are fruitful. Otherwise, he could be working at a job he would hate, a job that he would see has demeaning and putting him in a position where he could have to sacrifice his manhood for pennies.

When I was working as a dishwasher that is how I felt. Routinely, I would have hot or dirty water splashed in my face, or have the front of the house employees and managers look down to me because I was working in the dish pit. Even though I was more educated than them, they only saw an old Black man washing dishes. I even felt desperate to get any job that would get me out of that dish pit.  Not the type of job I would try to keep or try to get promoted in.

However, whenever I work as a writer, which I graduated with a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, I feel free from all the drama and office politics. I feel as if I’m spending time doing something meaningful to the community.

What if it is possible for inmates to lessen their chances of going back with education? Based on my life after prison camp, inmates should further their education and improve their chances in society.

What do you think?