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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2013
113 pages
This study reviewed the scientific literature in a meta-analysis that synthesized the findings from studies on the effectiveness of correctional education programs in contributing to a reduction in recidivism and improvement in employment outcomes for adult inmates in U.S. State prisons.

The findings provide additional support for the premise that receiving correctional education while incarcerated reduces an individual's risk of recidivating after release. After examining the higher quality research studies, the study found that, on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had 43-percent lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not participate in correctional education programs. These results were consistent even when including the lower quality studies in the analysis. Given the high percentage of State prison inmates who have not completed high school, participation in high school/general education development (GED) programs was the most common approach in educating inmates in the studies reviewed. Regarding the link between participation in correctional education and obtaining postrelease employment, the meta-analysis found that the odds of obtaining employment after release was 13 percent higher than the odds for those who had not participated in a correctional education program; however, only one study was rated higher quality. Still, results suggest a positive association between correctional education and postrelease employment. The finding regarding the association between the type of correctional education (vocational or academic) and postrelease employment showed that vocational education improved the odds of postrelease employment. Employment was 28 percent higher for participants in vocational education compared to inmates with no participation in any type of correctional education; compared to participants in only academic education programs, the odds for obtaining employment were 8 percent higher for those who participated only in vocational education. 8 figures, 15 tables, and 93 references

Date Published: August 1, 2013