Blog

How to Save Millions by Reducing Recidivism with eLearning

Posted by SimTutor on Oct 23, 2019, 9:00:00 AM

Recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend. It is a term used when released criminals are re-arrested, re-convicted and re-incarcerated.

The key finding of the 2013, RAND study titled, A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults, which looked at 58 studies of correctional educational programs in the United States found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs had 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not.

recidivism 1

 

Education improved inmates' chances of not recidivating. 

 

Education also improved their chances of obtaining employment after release by 13% compared to inmates who did not participate in correctional education.3

Education saves tax dollars 

 

Research has shown that prison-based education programs are cost-effective and yield a high return on investment.

The repetitive cycle of arrest, incarceration, release and re-incarceration is very costly for the taxpayer.

One report, from the Center on Crime, Communities and Culture4 stated that the cost of offenders returning to jail for one year ($25, 000) was ten times higher than the cost of educating that person for a year. ($2,500). 

Another study was more conservative, yet still convincing: The RAND 2013 meta-analysis found that the three-year return on investment for taxpayers is nearly 400%, or $5 saved for every $1 spent on education.5

Clearly, the potential saving by reducing recidivism could amount to millions of dollars. 

The added benefit is that when a released individual gets a job, he or she is no longer a burden on the state, but will contribute to the general economy and pay taxes.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics6 reports that 95% of prison inmates will eventually be released, so preventing recidivism is vital both to protect society from crime and to save money.

 

What Education and Training Do Prisoners Need?

 

In order to lead successful lives outside of prison, released individuals need to be equipped with appropriate knowledge and skills so that they can be employed and make a positive contribution to society.

Besides academic and vocational training, released convicts also need soft skills, interpersonal and social survival skills. They need to embrace new values and develop new attitudes, a sense of responsibility and a desire to be a self-supporting, contributing member of society. They may need pre-release training and post-release support in some or all of the following: 

  • anger management and emotional control
  • substance abuse prevention
  • financial responsibility and management skills 
  • legal advice about their rights and records
  • healthcare and welfare
  • housing rights and responsibilities
  • job search skills
  • interview and workplace etiquette
  • support through family reunions with parents or children
  • establishing new social networks rather than participating in previous criminal rings and
  • a host of other life skills and social skills, which many other citizens living in supportive families and communities may take for granted.

 

Although release from prison is instantaneous, making the transition from inmate to employee doesn’t happen overnight.

Training, either in prison or soon after release, is a key part of the metamorphosis. Finding a job within the first year also reduces recidivism significantly.7 

Effective educational and rehabilitative programs must ensure that released individuals do not feel overwhelmed. They must be equipped with the skills and competence to cope in their communities and to use new technology. For example, some feel stressed doing things that other citizens do without thinking, like using a smartphone or swiping a bank card at a pay point. 

They need to feel confident to make a new life so that they don’t go back to the old!

 

Education Works, but is it Implemented?

 

Implementing correctional education is challenging. Prison education rehabilitation programs struggle with the following:

  • Staff shortages

Corrections has historically struggled with high staff vacancy rates for its inhouse academic and vocational education programs. This has restricted the opportunities for prisoners to receive education and training.

  • Low enrollment

Prisons have also been unable to address the causes of low enrollment, due to problems hiring staff and also the lack of adequate space within prison premises. 

  • Lack of suitable facilities

Physical space limitations restrict the number of students that can be accommodated in educational programs. The lack of space has led to reduced class sizes at some institutions. 

  • No Pell Grants
Another factor is that prisoners are ineligible for Pell Grants. A Pell Grant is a subsidy the U.S. federal government provides for students in need to pay for college education. Most people in prison are eligible for post-secondary education but they cannot access educational resources. Only 9 percent of incarcerated people received a certificate from a college or trade school while in prison.9

 

eLearning Offers Solutions


eLearning offers solutions to all the above problems and provides other benefits to boot.


1. eLearning is cost effective, especially via mobile devices. This reduces the need for large classroom spaces with desks and facilities for teacher instruction. 
2. Remote teaching reduces the need for in-house staff. Teachers won’t feel intimidated by having to teach in the prison environment.
3. Enrollment can be increased when the two constraints above are eliminated.
4. eLearning courses can be scaled and delivered (simultaneously) in multiple locations, without multiplying the total costs.

Simulation eLearning Develops Skills and Competence

 

1. Delivering academic and vocational content digitally means that students will also be developing computer competence and technical skills, which they might otherwise lack.

2. Research has shown simulation and scenario-based training, is effective not only for learning academic or theoretical content, but also developing cognitive skills, soft-skills and procedural skills. Students learn by doing in a safe environment.

3. Simulation eLearning ensures that learners will be able to apply their new knowledge and skills in the real world.

4. eLearning can be used collaboratively among inmates as well as with mentors or co-learners outside of the correctional institutions to help them build the social connections they need to succeed in the free world. “There is suggestive evidence that correctional education may be most effective in preventing recidivism when the program connects inmates with the community outside the correctional facility.10

5. eLearning can have inbuilt assessment to measure the performance of students long before they need to perform on the job in the real world. 

6. Digital data can also be used to research the ROI of the investment and the results of the training post-release.


shaking-handsThe evidence is clear, education is a vital part of a rehabilitation program. It equips inmates to reintegrate successfully into society and by reducing recidivism it reduces the costs of incarceration of repeat offenders. However, the challenges of implementing prison education programs need to be overcome. eLearning could be an integral part of the solution.

With SimTutor’s innovative tools that maximize learning by doing, prisoners can learn both soft and hard skills that will equip them to succeed socially and economically after release.
Effective simulation and scenario-based training for life as responsible, free, working citizens will prevent recidivism and save tax dollars.

 

The infographic below summarizes the most important facts and stats about recidivism and education in the US.

RECIDIVISM (1)

 

 

References

1. California State Auditor | Report 2018-113 5 January 2019 https://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2018-113.pdf
2. Davis, Lois M., Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, and Jeremy N. V. Miles, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html. Also available in print form.
3. Ibid
4. *Reported in The California Prison and Rehabilitation System
Jon Aborn, Annie van den Toorn, John Hockin, Scott Jordon, Man Nayvelt, and Michael Finkelstein
Poverty & Prejudice: Breaking the Chains of Inner City Poverty, https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/citypoverty/california.htm

5. Davis, Lois M., Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, and Jeremy N. V. Miles, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html. Also available in print form.
6. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Reentry Trends in the U.S. https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/releases.cfm
7. Cove, P. and Bowes, L. Immediate Access to Employment Reduces Recidivism, June 2015, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/06/11/immediate_access_to_employment_reduces_recidivism_126939.html
8. Jon Aborn, Annie van den Toorn, John Hockin, Scott Jordon, Man Nayvelt, and Michael Finkelstein
Poverty & Prejudice: Breaking the Chains of Inner City Poverty, https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/citypoverty/california.htm

9. Vera Institute of Justice, Investing in Futures: Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prison January 2019 Fact Sheet https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/investing-in-futures-education-in-prison/legacy_downloads/investing-in-futures-factsheet.pdf
10. Davis, Lois M., Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, and Jeremy N. V. Miles, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html. Also available in print form.

Topics: elearning, recidivism, California, correctional education, prison education, prison rehabilitation, vocational, skills training

Subscribe to blog updates