Recently, President Donald Trump signed a pardon for Alice Johnson after meeting with Kim Kardashian West to talk about prison reform. Kardashian West’s primary focus was to ask for clemency to be granted to Alice Johnson, who was sentenced to life without parole for a nonviolent drug conspiracy charge and money laundering. However, their talk also focused on prison sentence reform and rehabilitation programs, which would include education funding.
Last week, the House passed the bipartisan First Step Act, which would provide funding for education programs in federal prisons and encourage inmates to participate in those programs by giving them credits for early release.
The federal government’s focus is finally changing from making prisons bigger to doing more to support rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. The Prison Reform and Redemption Act, like the First Step Act, would have a large focus on recidivism reduction programs, which could include more literacy and workforce readiness programs.
Adult education is the answer to successful reintegration and helping offenders find good jobs upon release. Ninety-five percent of the prison population will be reintegrated into our communities. Research shows that inmates who are educated are 43 percent less likely to return to prison.
This program would do more than just lower the reincarceration rate, it could give a boost to the U.S. economy by lowering the high costs of holding an incarcerated person. Currently, pre-K-12 spending per student is about $10,000 a year across the U.S. Meanwhile, the average cost per inmate a year is $31,286. New York state paid the most, with an average cost of $60,000 per prison inmate.
We commend all of those involved with these prison reform bills. Adult education has finally been acknowledged as part of the answer to rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.