Most inmates in-state and federal prisons have access to a high school education. But when it comes to college, not much is known about what’s available.
It’s one of the key hurdles Erin Castro is trying to overcome. She’s the co-founder of the University of Utah’s Prison Education Project and said to do that, we first need better data.
“We’ve known for a long time that there is a strong relationship between educational attainment and one’s life chances of becoming incarcerated,” Castro said. “At this point in time, it is really difficult to answer questions about higher education in prison.”
Nationally, about 25% of inmates don’t have a high school education. Fewer than 4% have a college degree, compared to 29% of the general public, according to a study from the Prison Policy Initiative.
Along with several other researchers around the country, Castro recently released the first of a multi-part study examining the landscape of higher education opportunities across the U.S. prison system, which vary widely across the country and even within states.
The first part of the study looks into admissions, enrollment and funding for higher ed programs. Researchers surveyed 60 programs across the U.S. — not an exhaustive or representative list, but one they hope will provide some initial clues to help expand opportunity and improve the quality of the programs.
Of the programs surveyed, most are run by a college or university and offered in-person classes at prisons or jails. Only six offer primarily remote