Inmates, higher ed and stopping the recidivism cycle

Producer Kryssy Pease answered phones for our in-depth on prison education. She was surprised by the audience reaction:

Going into today’s program, I had no idea what to expect in terms of listener feedback, and I was blown away. Our phones were jammed the entire time, mostly with people calling in to say that they or a loved one had been incarcerated and benefitted greatly from an educational experience, either while in prison or post-release.

Talking with our guest Josh Page after the show, we both noted that we were surprised by the fact that no one called in with a negative comment about education for prisoners, specifically the cost of it. We both expected at least a couple of people to call in and say that it’s a benefit prisoners shouldn’t be afforded, especially now, when even people “on the outside” are having such trouble getting access to higher education. I leave today’s show with a sense of gratitude toward our thoughtful and engaged audience. It’s a pleasure to hear your views everyday.

Kerri also got a some emails about the show:

I wanted to say that I saw great value in education for inmates during my 1-year term as an AmeriCorps/VISTA working with the Council on Crime & Justice and MN Department of Corrections (DOC).

If the ultimate goal is to spend less on corrections, then we need to provide basic services to our inmates to help keep them out of prison in the future. We need to help offenders become productive members of society and, for that to happen, they need safe places to live, access to reliable work and a strong support system on the outside.

The tough economy increases crime for both first time offenders and repeat offenders and is a horrible cycle to break. We need money to support the good work of non-profits and expand the services of the DOC — but there isn’t enough to go around in the first place, leading to more crime.

Tiffany, Minneapolis

I worked in a prison education program for five years; three as a library technician and two as education director. Giving felons a chance to better themselves while they are incarcerated only makes good sense. Most of the people we lock up in our prisons have very limited educations; many are illiterate, and many have no computer skills. In order for them to function in the world on release, gaining some basic skills is crucial.

For the most part the offenders working in the education program that I ran were working on their GED. A few were involved in industrial arts programs, and a very few were taking college level classes via correspondence. Our programming was severely limited by funding limits.

We should be putting more emphasis on education in our prisons so that more offenders can lead a reasonably successful life as they exit. One must remember that the vast majority of the people we lock up will see the street again in their life times, and making that reentry successful is advantageous to both them and us.

Patrick Stevens, Moose Lake

My husband has been a corrections officer for 20 years. He firmly supports basic and higher education for prisoners. Technical or trade education would also be very valuable for prisoners who have very few financial resources to be successful outside of prison. Many also lack other basic supports to lead healthy productive lives. Healthy family support systems and positive friendships, healthcare (including mental and chemical health services), affordable housing. My husband has seen many, many people return to prison because they lack these supports.

Kris Troska, Oakdale

Stephanie Curtis, social media host