A new study from the Institute for Higher Education Policy shows that prison inmates have extremely limited access to online classes. Online learning can be a cost effective way for correctional facilities to educate students and reduce recidivism rates (according to the study 7 out of 10 prisoners that don't have access to education are likely to return to prison within 3 years of release). However, researchers found that only 2 of the 43 states they studied offered some form of online education.
Authors of the study provided these three suggestions for prisoner education:
- "To address capacity challenges that limit access to postsecondary education in prisons, federal and state statutes and regulations should be revised to support the development and expansion of Internet-based delivery of such education.
- To increase educational attainment, support economic development, and make efficient use of limited public funding, postsecondary correctional education programs should be closely aligned with state postsecondary education systems and local workforce needs.
- To support increased access to postsecondary education in prisons, federal and state statutes should be amended to make specific categories of incarcerated persons eligible for need-based financial aid."
Access to online education in prison does pose some unique challenges. Internet access, for example, must be closely monitored in many cases. However, online learning can give inmates the opportunity to educate themselves while they don't have access to traditional schools. Although critics contend that inmates should not be given the privilege of financial aid for online learning, the government ends up paying much more when uneducated prisoners return to lock up again and again.