Inmate Degree Plan Opposed By California Guards

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Prison guards in California want to end a program for inmates to earn college degrees, the Los Angeles Times reports. The guard union stance angers advocates who say educating felons helps prevent them from committing crimes after release.

The popular program at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe enrolls 280 inmates to pursue a two-year associate of arts degree through a local community college. It has 800 convicts on a waiting list. The local chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association says the program should be abolished because it is wrong to provide state-funded education to rapists, molesters and murderers.

The inmates, like other eligible low-income Californians at community colleges, receive free textbooks and a waiver of fees; the cost per inmate is about $750 a year. In February, protests by the union prompted the elimination of a similar program at another prison.

Palo Verde Community College President James Hottois said that teaching convicts is not depriving the free residents of Blythe of a chance at a college degree.

Studies show that prisoners who earn college degrees are far less likely to return to prison once they are paroled. One Arizona study showed that prisoners who earned a two-year degree had a recidivism rate of 10%, compared with a national rate of about 60% at that time.


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