Correctional Education

“Correctional education” refers to a wide variety of educational programs available to men and women under correctional supervision. The types of programs range from basic skills training to college and vocational training that provide the skills necessary for people to obtain employment upon release.

Correctional educational programs include:

  • Adult Basic Education (ABE): Basic skills training in math, reading, writing, and English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Adult Secondary Education: Instruction for the GED tests or another certificate of high school equivalency
  • Vocational Education: Training to prepare individuals for general positions of employment as well as skills related to specific jobs and/or industries
  • College Coursework: Advanced college coursework, where credits may be applied toward an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree
  • Special Education: Educational training designed for individuals with disabilities or other special needs
  • Study Release: Release of individuals from correctional supervision for participation in coursework or training offered outside of a prison or jail
  • Life Skills/Competency-Based Education: Wide variety of programs that focus on providing individuals with communication skills, job and financial skill development, education, interpersonal and family relationship development, as well as stress and anger management

Education programs can play a critical role in the successful reentry of individuals returning home from incarceration. A growing body of research has shown a link between education programs, decreased recidivism rates, and positive employment outcomes. For instance, a meta-analysis by the RAND Corporation found that individuals who participated in a correctional education program had 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than those who did not, with 13 percent higher odds of obtaining a job after release.

LOCKED OUT: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth

The Council of Governments Justice Center (2015)

Based on a survey that the CSG Justice Center and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators conducted with juvenile correctional agencies in all 50 states, this issue brief highlights key findings and provides state and local policymakers with policy and practice recommendations to improve college and career readiness for incarcerated youth.

How Effective is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go From Here?

The RAND Corporation (2014)

This publication provides the result of a comprehensive evaluation on the state of correctional education programs for adults and juveniles. The report includes a meta-analysis on correctional education’s effects on recidivism and post-employment outcomes for adults, as well as a synthesis of research on programs for youth.

Snapshot: Education

Federal Interagency Reentry Council (2013)

This is a snapshot of accomplishments and the current agenda from federal agencies to advance the educational opportunities of individuals involved with the justice system. It also provides a list of key resources on education.

Addressing the Unmet Educational Needs of Children and Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems

Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (2010)

This paper outlines potential strategies, programs and resources for effectively collaborating across systems to improve the educational outcomes for crossover youth who are involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

A Reentry Education Model: Supporting Education and Career

Department of Education

This publication introduces a correctional education reentry model, developed by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education of the U.S. Department of Education. The model aligns education services in correctional institutions and the community, establishes strong program infrastructure, and integrates education into the corrections system.