UCF Professors Stress Importance of Prison Education

By Alex Wexelman

A college degree, whether stated or unstated, is often a prerequisite for a career. For prisoners, a career is integral to adjusting after getting out and education plays a major role — and UCF professors agree.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times, written by John J. Lennon, a prisoner inmate at the Attica Correctional Facility, paints education as a beacon of hope for prisoners.

Lennon says that inmates watch television all day and companies such as Coursera already record university lectures so it would be easy for massive open online courses to be streamed on prison TVs.

“The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected,” Lennon writes.

Education was once an important part of prison life. Lennon reports that in the early 1980s there were 350 college degree programs for prisoners nationwide.

Later in the decade, as crime rose due to the crack epidemic, the public mentality turned harsh on criminals and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, along with other legislation, quashed educational grants for prisoners in the ’90s.

Criminal justice professors at UCF agreed that despite public opinion, educating prisoners would be beneficial to the prison system and society as a whole.

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