Prison Education Cuts Hurt More Than Just Inmates
I'm an inmate at High Desert State Prison who was on track in pursuing my associate's degree until the prison college programs were recently reduced.
State's budget cuts have taken away educational opportunities in prisons. Teachers were laid off. College correspondence courses and vocational trainings have been cut drastically.
All of these changes signify fewer opportunities for inmates to educate themselves and become more productive citizens when released back into society. If inmates are not given the opportunity to learn new skills in prison, how can you expect them to become law-abiding citizens upon release and re-entry into society?
I received my G.E.D in prison before this round of budget cuts was introduced. Now that the state has cut post-secondary educational programs by 60 percent, I can't take classes any more.
The number of teachers now leading classes in High Desert State Prison has been cut in half. Inmates hoping for an education have ended up just sitting in their cells, waiting to be paroled back to their communities. This does nothing for their rehabilitation.
A big reason why the current budget crisis in California exists is because of the numerous prisons that were built and then filled to overcapacity. That resulted in having to pay for more correctional officers' salaries, more food, more clothing, and more medical attention for inmates.
If inmates had the opportunity to further their education and skills while in prison, fewer inmates would end up back in prison after release. Prisons then wouldn't be so overcrowded. When inmates leave prison with a G.E.D., college degree, or vocational training skills, they have a better chance at making it in society.
For those of us who are making a genuine effort to improve ourselves in prison, we used the progress we made in education to convince the parole board when it came time for release. Without schooling, this opportunity to show our aspiration and tenacity through education has been taken from us.
I'm serving a 25 years-to-life sentence, and I'm worried I won't have a chance in the job market when I get out of jail. I'll be released as a felon, but if I were equipped with a college degree, at least I would be able to complete with other job seekers. Having a record and lacking degrees doesn't make it easy to find a job. Since California cut classes in prisons, I, and many others like myself, will be stuck in poverty when we're released.
What people may not realize is that cuts to prison education not only affect inmates but also society outside prison walls. When you release people from prison who didn't get the opportunity to further their skill set or education, you're sending people home to where they were before coming into prison.
How can we expect people not to go back to their old lifestyle in crime to support themselves and their families?
If the public doesn't take note of the fact that the success of inmates in prison will eventually help our society and communities in the long run, it shouldn't expect the crime rate or the amount of money they pay in taxes for housing prisoners to go down.
When inmates succeed, so does the rest of the state because with education, the cycle of poverty, crime, and incarceration will stop spinning.
Copyright © 2010 Pacific News Service