Former prison inmates' recidivism rates: A content analysis study of the impact of educational and rehabilitation programs
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION
Introduction to the Problem
Background of the Study
Statement of the Problem
Purpose of the Study
Framework for Document Control Analysis
Significance of the Study
Definition of Terms
Nature of the Study
Organization of the Remainder of the Study
CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Historical Overview of Prisons in America
Nexus Between Prison Programs and Recidivism
Advantage of Educating Inmates
Disadvantage of Educating Inmates
Educational Prison - based Programs
Distant/ Online Instruction
Courses Offered at Correctional Institutions
Instructiona l Staff Issues
Examples of State Educational Opportunities
Rehabilitative Prison Programs
Intensive Behavior Therapy Unit
General Findings from Prison - based Programs
CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY
Statement of the Problem
Population and Sampling Procedures
Sources of Data (qualitative)
Basis for Document Selection Proc edures
Content Analysis Procedures
CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
Results and Analysis of Extensive Monographs
Integration o f Current Results with Non - empirical Research
CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Summary of the Study
APPENDIX A. TEMPLATE ANALYSIS FORM
APPENDIX B. TABLE 26. CONTENT ANALYSIS: BOOKS ON THE TOPIC OF REDCSIVISM AND PRISON - BASED PROGRAMS
List of Tables
Table 1. List of Journals Surveyed in Database Searchers
Table 2. Bo oks and Monographs Identified in Literature Review
Table 3. Government Documents, State and Federal
Table 4. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Primary Type of Program
Table 5. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Program S etting
Table 6. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Program Focus
Table 7. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Type of Program
Table 8. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Sample Size
Table 9. Content Analysi s: Empirically - based Articles on Recidivism Rate
Table 10. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Post - Release Timeframe
Table 11. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Primary Conceptual Framework
Table 12. Content Analysis: Em pirically - based Articles on Statistical Procedures
Table 13. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Articles on Outcome (dependent) Variable
Table 14. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism and Educational Programs
Tabl e 15. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism and Vocational Programs
Table 16. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism and Drug Programs
Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism, Correctional Education, Life - Skills, Technology Programs
Table 18. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism, Moral and Cognitive Programs
Table 19. Conte nt Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism and Therapeutic Programs
Table 20. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Research Articles on Recidivism, Faith - based, and Rehabilitation Programs
Table 21. Content Analysis: Empirically - ba sed Review Articles on Recidivism and Educational Programs
Table 22. Content Analysis: Empirically - based Review Articles on Recidivism, Drug Abuse, and Cognitive Programs
Table 23. Content Analysis: Government Documents on the Topic of Recidivism, Ed ucational, and Employment Programs
Table 24. Content Analysis: Government Documents on the Topic of GED and Recidivism
Table 25. Content Analysis: Government Documents on the Topic of substance Abuse, Life Skills, and Drug Treatment Programs
List of Figures
Figure 1. Schematic Flow Chart of Literature Review Process
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION
Introduction to the Problem
Rehabilitation of former inmates in their adjustment into a normal life style is a
key function of prison incarnation (Zamble & Quinsey, 1997). Prison based educational programs remain contentious issues in society even to this day. There are a number of Americans who think that providing inmates with an education is a right that they a re not entitled to; however, it is clear that literacy no longer ends with high school completion and in order for inmates to be competitive upon their release from prison they need the experience and knowledge that self - improvement provides (Haney, 2006).
According to Steurer (2001)
in order to be successful in today‘s world, inmates should take advantage of self - improvement programs offered by correctional institutions. Moreover, i nmates will need to acquire literacy skills beyond math, reading and writin g to successfully adjust to a challenging social and specialty - focused job environment. On the other hand, some Americans claim that education or retraining is beyond the scope of the responsibility of the prison system or society as a whole (Haney, 2006).
Prior research has shown that inmates who complete prison - based educational programs adapt better to life outside prison post - incarnation. Thus, prison programs could produce a positive impact on the reduction of recidivism rates.
Recidivism could be a cr itical issue in the rehabilitation process and the term needs to have a universal meaning in the field of corrections. Perhaps recidivism might b e defined as the propensity of a convicted inmate to re - offend after their release from a correctional facility
or rehabilitation program. The legal outcome is usually a charge of violation of parole and
ultimately re - incarceration. Undoubtedly, a major goal of inmate rehabilitation should be r educing the probability of recidivism, and thus the threat and monetary costs to society.
The costs to society could total over $200 million a year in re - housing ex - convicts (Beck & Harrison, 2006).
When the costs of accredited correctional education are compared to the cost of keeping inmates behind bars without any opportun ities for self - improvement, the results support the funding of correctional education of inmates. The majority of inmates enter prison with an eighth - grade level of education or cut (Batchelder & Pippert 2002; Behan, 200 7). According to Haulard (2001)
reha bilitation has an integrated relationship with the r emediation of prisoners due to their inability to read at the first and second - grade levels while their math abilities are at the twelfth - grade level. The amount of time that needs to be invested in order
to obtain these results can be considerable.
This research design does not take any a priori view on ultimate conclusions based on this document content analysis. Findings of prior studies on recidivism and the efficacy of prison - based programs are reported as sole investigations. Extensive reviews of the literature on each of these two
issues have bee n conducted, bu t the relationship between the two
issues has provided disparate findings. Moreover, these studies vary widely in terms of type of prison program, goal of the program, length of program, characteristics of types of participating inmates, fun ding, training - level of program instructors and a variety of study design and statistical analysis approaches. Therefore, this research(er) will not know the conclusions until after the content analysis is conducted and completed. Once specific connections
between independent and dependent can be determined, only then can the durability of conclusions be affirmed .
Background of the Study
I mportance of offering inmates an opportunity for self - improvement is based on the reali ty that there are an estimated 1 million or more inmates currently incarcerated in the U.S. (Beck & Harrison, 2006) .
S econdly, taxpayers‘ money is being used as an investment that pretends to reduc e
the number of inmates who recidivate upon release. Indeed, newspapers and the national ne ws report serious crimes occurring locally, nationally, and worldwide. Therefore, it is no wonder that citizens are weary of walking alone and find the need to install home alarms due to the possibility of becoming a victim or crime statistic. The perpetra tors of these crimes apparently do not care who they victimize (e.g., boys, men, women, people of color, the young, or the aged) or the ultimate impact of their aberrant actions on their victims (Gadsden, 2003).
There are some who believe that correctiona l institutions are purely designed as a place to prevent disobedience. When an inmate disobeys the rules or regulations of the facility, the discipline can be indiscriminate and rigid. The ―punishment‖ can consist of removing personal items from inmates, h arsh treatment, and no cable TV, only wearing prison clothes, the inability to earn money, and not being able leave
to their cells. This institutional behavior starts the moment an inmate enters the cor rectional facility (Sumner, 2002 ).
Prison education m ust be presented in a format that is different from mainstream educational programs. The educational program for inmates cannot be a duplication of the curriculum of community schools nor
as delivering one of mass treatment. As with any correctional facili ty, the conditions can often be resistant to the self - improvement and self - efficacy of its occupants. However, within the prison culture there needs to be an
atmosphere that is appropriate for learning to occur within such a diverse environment (Anonymous,
Postsecondary educat ional opportunities for
incarcerated adults range from undergraduate
degrees, graduate degrees ,
and certificate programs. ―Self - improvement‖ through college degrees is anticipated to furnish inmates with the necessary skills to enable them to acquire employment in entry - level positions based on their chosen degree path. When an inmate enrolls in a corrections degree program, it is expected that upon completing the program, he should be able to expound on the modus - operandi of the
criminal justice system (WorldWideLearn, n.d.).
Kirshstein and Best (1996), reported in 20 out of 40 states, Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED Preparation Courses were offered at every correctional facility within each state. An average of 62% of corr ectional facilities within the 11 states offered high school coursework to inmates. According to the survey conducted by Kirshstein and Best (1996), only 43 states responded to the 1992 Survey of State Adult Correctional Education Agencies. Out of the 43 s tates that did respond, 38 reported offering postsecondary education to incarcerated adults.
In 2000, the Florida
Corrections Commission reported that for the Fiscal Year
1993 - 94 they had a combined return of $1.66 for every $1.00 invested on the educational attainment of
highest return was in the area of academic completers with the next highest in high - tech
completers. Further, t he report indicated
that ―few major disciplinary reports were issued on inmates who were enrolled in educa tional courses. For FY 1995 - 96, 684 major disciplinary reports were issued per 1,000 inmates who were
enrolled in educational courses as compared to 917 major disciplinary reports per 1,000 of the remaining inmate population‖ (Florida Corrections Commissio n, 2000, p. 3).
Currently, there has been a reduction in the number of inmates who participate in self -
improvement courses compared to those taking courses in the 1990s
(Schmalleger & Smykla, 2009) . T he decline in inmates who participate in educational op portunities is considerable in federal correctional institutions and slightly less so for state facilities. Moreover, the decline
in enrollment in self - improvement courses is less than that for vocational training. Therefore , it is no surprise that inmates
with less education are the ones who enroll in ―both‖ self - improvement courses.
As reported by T racy, Smith, and Steurer (1998)
institutions are not interested in conducting research on the value or detriment of prison - based educational programs that cou ld have an effect on recidivism. However, there are some compelling problems that institutions can encounter, which include working in areas where safeguards are required to be in place, the constant turnover of prison populations, and discharging and puni tive actions
(Tracy, Smith, & Steurer, 1998).
Statement of the Problem
It is not known which specific factors contribute to successful program or to what degree these variables contribute to failed programs. In 2000, nearly 90% of federal, state, and private prisons provided incarcerated individuals‘ access to educational services. According t o Schmalleger and Smykla (2009)
nearly 89% of correctional facilities offer prisoners‘ access to educational services. Klein, Tolbert, Bugari n, Cataldi, and Tausc hek (2004)
concluded that federal prisons endeavor to provide inmates their
GED and college degrees as opposed to state or private institutions. The societal issue is whether financing educational programs for inmates while institutionalized are c ost - effec tive and advantageous.
C orrectional system in the U.S. is faced with pressures from political and social groups concerning funding self - improvement courses for inmates (Beck & Harrison, 2006). Moreover, society faces several major challenges that reside in
the criminal justice system: a) prison overcrowding, b) re - offense by former inmates, i.e., recidivism, and c) high cost of incarceration (Parker, 2007). If these high impact factors could be identified through further study, then educational and rehabil itation programs could be designed to lead to positive outcomes for former inmates after release. Thus, several concomitant effects of such interventions would be
a decrease in recidivism rates, lower c osts for maintaining prisoners, and an overall reducti on in crime rat es. Th is
current study plans to address the
void in the literature.
Purpose of the Study
Purpose of this study is to determine to what extent educating inmates reduces recidivism. Although the research base
on the issue of the relationship between prison - based programs and recidivism is rather vast, researchers have not analyzed and synthesized the extant
literature for determining what factors differentiate successful versus failed prison programs.
With 1,4 04.053 individuals in correctional facilities throughout the U.S., it is import to ascertain what makes prison - based programs successful or unsuccessful (Pew Center for the States, 2010). R emediation of prisoners needs to be the first step in prepar ing inm ates
for educational opportunities. Th is
remediation process needs to be associated with increasing inmates‘
cognitive abilities , particularly in reading and math . C urrently, prisoners who enter correctional settings tend to function on a first and second grade level in th ese academic areas , which further compounds the problem of providing a proper level of educational training?
Furthermore, p risoners who have committed violent crimes normally receive longer sentences and ,
are more amenable to earning
their GED or participat ing in college courses
(Lanaghan, 1998) .
Therefore, a critical review of the literature should provide insights into what types of instructional programs work and what specific factors contribute to failed programs and, ultimately, poor adaptation to a productive social life for former inmates. Rehabilitation programs for inmates in correctional institutions need to provide optimal educational opportunities, using corrective and educational methods that have proven to be successful. Haulard (2001) concluded that both t he amount of prior education and the education an inmate receives while in the correctional system can affect recidivism rates. Correctional instruction needs to be conducted in an educational environment that is designe d and formulated on the most restrictive environment that a prison can provide, one wherein the inmate can take advantage of any of the correctional settings‘ self - improvement programs and address factors that s upport individualized learning. Accord ing to Beck and Harrison (2006)
educational attainment generally is associated with increased income, even among those with relatively low cognitive skills. Moreover, increased revenue is associated with a diminished incidence in crime. This can be expl ained because people choose between committing crimes and obtaining
employment. R isks associated with committing crimes are larger when having a job pays more, or getting a job is easier. As a result, deciding to commit a crime is a
less appealing option to those who could earn more money with a leg al job (Brunner, 1993).
Several factors have been identified that can have a dramatic impact on the reported efficacy of educational programs in prison. When researching correctional education, it is e ssential to
critically assess every aspect of educational programs available for inmates‘ self - improvement. This
assessment is necessary to avoid generalizing educational opportunities to a ―one educational method fits all‖ category. Inmates, like other in dividuals, have varying
academic levels; thus it is important to predetermine an inmate‘s academic abilities for proper placement in a self - improvement program. Wolf - Harlow (2003) reported that a mong inmates with a disability — such as limiting condition, di fficulty seeing or hearing, a specific learning
disability , speech or physical disability, or a mental or emotional condition — about 44%
did not complete
high school or earn a GED. T hirty - seven percent of those without a disability also did not complete hig h school
or earn a GED . Two - thirds of the inmates with a learning disability and 6 in 10 with a speech disability did not complete 12 th
grade or a GED . To this end, proper placement should remove barriers (e. g., correct placement of inmates based on their level of comprehension and abilities) and ensure inmates‘ success in educational
opportunities while in prison (Holt, 1984).
This study will review the published literature on educational programs in U.S. correctional facilities and analyze availa ble empirical data and qualitative review summaries in order to understand the influence of demographic, confounding variables, and specific characteristics of programs on the reduction of recidivism rates.
Research for this document content an alysis is available from documents such as journal articles , books, book chapters, and government documents on the topic were also included.
obtained from the extant literature should provide for understand ing and appreciat ing
the unique challenge s of inmates, determine the appropriateness of the findings, review empirically - based data, highlight shortcomings ,
note limitations, integrate conclusions, and predict recommendations for future study.
M ajority of inmates enter correctional facilities wit h an eighth - grade education or less. This fact is important not just for prison officials and policy makers but also educational personnel who teach in prisons. Currently, there is no prison - based research methodology that assimilates a true experimental d esign that involves subject randomization or the utilization of controls. I nmates who test at the lowest academic levels have been singled out by some states in order to ensure that they are served with the appropriate individualized instruction
necessary for academic success . Undoubtedly, this approach poses several concerns and challenges for both the inmates and c orrectional officials. For example: W hat level of education
is appropriate for the inmate? H ow much time is needed to ascertain the appropriate p lacement? H ow much individualized instructions
will an individual inmate require?
What is the optimal level of instruction for each inmate (Ershler, 1983).
P risons in Virginia, as well as other states, are require d to offer inmates a variety of programs and services in order to provide them with opportunities to utilize free time for positive personal growth. Moreover, some s tates offer prison inmates various opportunities for self - improvement
including earning a General Educational
Developmen t (GED) certificate, various college degrees, vocational training, as well as technical proficiency in instruction . M ajority of federal, state, and private prisons do , in fact, provide some form
of educational opportunities to inmates, with federal facilit ies providing a w ider range of correctional education al services . However, a pproximately half of the current population of inmates serving time in federal and state prisons lack any adult basic education (ABE). At the same time, some inmates take advantage
of college course
offerings , vocational training, or
a GED after being incarcerated. Batchelder and Pippert (2002) reported that pr isoners who have been identified as requiring the most educational opportunities are female , people of color, and juven ile
delinquents . Moreover, these populations are most likely to be willing to participate in self - improvement program s .
I ssue of prison - based programs impact on recidivism rates of former correctional inmates has been a part of the contention of whether o r not to offer educational programs. This issue has garnered equivocal results in the literature dating back decades and continues to baffle educators, policy - makers, and correctional leadership. Regardless of the inability of policy makers to determine if
there is an impact on recidivism when an inmate earns a college degree or certificate, Gehring (2000) argued that emphasis should be consistently placed on the educational operation of correctional missions: to assist in
prepar ing prisoners or wards of th e state for successful community life. Basis of correctional programs should be rehabilitation and job - related goals. In addition, the role of all correctional personnel
should be to improve the educational development of prisoners or youth who are in cont act with the juvenile justice system.
A National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) study conducted in 2006 revealed data that 43% of individuals who have the lowest literacy skills live in poverty. Data on percentage of individuals functioning at the lowest le vel of literacy indicate that 70% of them are not employed either full or part - time. When literacy becomes a barrier for inmates, it is recommended that they take a course in English as a second language or beginning reading courses; such didactic instruct ion is necessary because the courses greatly improve reading skills, comprehension, and foster progression into more advanced literacy coursework. This process should enable inmates, who do not possess a GED, to acquire the necessary skills to earn their h igh school diploma.
There is some contention concerning the use of computer assisted instruction (CAI) with undereducated prisoners. A ccording to Batchelder (2000)
skeptics are suggesting the utilization of stronger controls on the management of CAI as compared to traditional instructional methods. As a result, institutional studies that have tried to compare computer - assisted instruction (CAI) with traditional ins truction are inconclusive (Spivey, 1992).
R esearch design will consist of a document content analysis. As reported by Krippendorff (2004)
document content analysis adds new insights and improves a researcher‘s appreciation and understanding of the i nter - relationship between 2 variables or issues. In this dissertation, the research will report general conclusions regarding the efficacy of prison - based educational programs based solely on a critical content document analysis of the findings garnered fr om the extant literature. Document content analysis provides an effective framework to examine a vast pool of research publications
and bibliographic sources in order to conduct a detailed and rigorous review of the literature to address specific research questions.
I ssue of ethical considerations has been considered for this study. According to
access to prisoners has been difficult for researchers. There is difficulty associated with the general public gaining ac cess to correctional facilit ies (Leslie, 2003).
Some of the difficulties in doing a national study of the impact of education on incarcerated persons are
( a) state pri son officials are reluctant to grant interviews for years — whether as part of the general public conducting research or just arbitrary enforcement of questionable
guidelines; ( b)
t he courts of the U . S .
do not consider access to prisoners a con stitutional right; (c) t here is no provision in the First Amendment that supports access to p risoners by the general public; and ( d) the First Amendment does state that the government has the right to deny such access by the general public to conduct research (Leslie, 2003).
Framework for Document Content Analysis
Rationale to conduct a document content analysis on these topical i ssues serves to address the importance of prior findings on predicting whether prison educational programs are indeed efficacious. Research studies retrieved from bibliographical searches will be critically reviewed, analyzed and evaluated to address the r esearch questions posed in this dissertation. Literature included as part of this topical review dates from 1980 to 2010.
Since this dissertation will be an extensive document content analysis, several systematic factors set the framework for the research process. First, according to the
Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a dissertation utilizing a document content analysis review format consist of the following : (a) f ocus of a document content analysis review is to summarize and s ynthesize the arguments and ideas of others; (b) varied number of
sources ; (c) types of sources (books, journal articles, and websites) ; (d) summari ze, synthesize, or critique
sources by discussing a common theme or issue ; ( e) evaluation of sources ; (f) su bheadings and other background information, such as d efinitions and/or a history; and (g)
contain at least three basic elements , that is
an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, fi nally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.
M ajor focus of the current research concerns the impact of educational programs on inmates upon recidivism rates
once these inmates are released. S tudy focuses
on two major topical areas: (a) recidivism rates and (b)
educational prison - based programs. Secondly, the initial task is to identify and critically review the literature in these two extensive topic areas that have bibliographic basic sources, empirical based articles, scholarly books, and government documents.
This extensive review identified approximately 100 authoritative references in the areas of recidivism and prison - based educational programs. This review will evaluate the research based across thr ee categories
to include, empirical based studies , qualitative/conceptual studies , and
Content analysis is possibly one of the most significant research methods in the social sciences (Krippendorff, 2004). Recently, content analysis h as been utilized in the field of health education (Austin & Graber, 2007) and teacher education (Chitiyo &
Harmon, 2009). Moreover, document analysis methodologies have been utilized in criminal just ice investigations (e.g., Aunshu l, 2008; Ditullio, 1986).
Analyzing research documents in the context of their conclusions, inferences, and generalizations separates content analysis from other procedures of investigations. Moreover, content analysis has evolved into a proven investigative technique in quantitat ive research. In this regard, ―objectivity‖ is a central part and goal of content analysis and provides an explanatory of the relationship between variables or constructs that avoids any possible bias or confounding factors in research investigation. Final ly, content analysis summaries and synthesis data sets of research results
were provided . This is consistent with the nomothetic approach to scientific studies, whose purpose is to generate conclusions of inquiry findings.