By Christopher Zoukis
Prison education programs benefit everyone. The RAND Corporation, a non-profit global policy think tank, notes offenders that have participated in prison education programs cut their risk of recidivism by 43 percent. If those education programs focused on vocational training, they also raise their employability by 13 percent. “Our findings suggest that we no longer need to debate whether correctional education works,” said lead researcher Lois Davis, in a media statement.
It cost approximately between $1,400-$1,744 per year to educate an inmate. It costs roughly $8,700-$9,700 per year to house an inmate. It’s easy to see that prison education benefits the state and the student with an extremely high return on investment.
Louisiana has found a way to really maximize that return. Fifteen correctional facilities in the state are using tablets and digital means to provide inmates with access to college credit and GED courses, providing no-cost education to the inmates, and very low administration costs for the program. As an added benefit, when the students are engrossed in their studies, they are “staying out of trouble.”
The program is called JPay’s Lantern because it “illuminates a new path in correctional education.” Lantern was initially tested with a partnership between the organization and Ashland University, offering the program to women in the Louisiana Transition Centre for Women in Madison Parish. The pilot was a success in that the women received education and the facility saw a reduction in disciplinary issues.
In a media statement, Jade Trombetta, JPay’s senior manager of brand, marketing and social media, said, “Part of being incarcerated is the rehabilitation process. Education is a huge element of rehabilitation.”
Lantern’s approach is very flexible with the ability to integrate into existing education models, or to provide a system of tech-forward education from the ground up. Since learning is not limited to the classroom, students can work at their own pace online, which also improves their motivation and chances of success.
JPay tablets used in its prison education program are specifically engineered for inmates and are available in three different models. Instructors can communicate with students using a chat feature within a closed communication system. A complimentary and standalone KA Lite video series is available, providing free content that can be used to supplement the courses.
The JPay Lantern education series includes a wide diversity of material, including career prep, adult basic education, personal development, ESL, GED, and technical literacy – covering the gambit of what an inmate needs to know for his or her best chance on the outside.
One cannot dispute that prisoner education works on all levels. With initiatives like JPay’s Lantern, education becomes more accessible, and even more affordable, for inmates and taxpayers. It reduces the chance of recidivism, lowers disciplinary issues in prison, saves tax dollars, and provides a firm foundation for success upon release. That’s a winning strategy for everyone and a model that should be used liberally across the United States.
Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014). He regularly contributes to New York Daily News, Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News. He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonerResource.com.