Inmate education programs should not be a bipartisan issue. Let’s actually rehabilitate these people while they are incarcerated, we refer to prisons as “Corrections” institutions anyway, so let’s fuel the proliferation of educational programs that can empower & liberate inmates. Instead, the current administration has signaled that it plans to terminate such programs. Amy Lopez was hired by the Obama administration to overhaul educational programs in federal prisons in hopes of easing re-entry into society. The recent decision to fire Lopez and squash educational programs is tragic on so many levels. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes education doesn’t have much benefit in reducing recidivism. Empirical studies and common sense indicate that Sessions is delusional in thinking educational programs are a waste of resources. Education is a relatively low-cost program & when you look at the direct savings (for every dollar invested in a prison education program it will ultimately save taxpayers $4-5 in re-incarceration costs) that’s an enormous savings.
Now for the good news. States can take the charge and choose not to follow suit in adhering to Session’s guidelines. Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, only 197,000 are in federal prisons. The current administration has rejected compassion and financial savings as a M.O. by gutting these educational programs. It’s time for States to step up. In CA, CDCR, the largest prison system in the world, and the California Community College system, the largest higher education system in the world, have announced a partnership. Throughout US history, CA has cultivated it’s own unique exceptionalism. The time is now for other states to replicate CA’s model of face-to-face instruction model in prisons.