After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is mounting several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole, says the Detroit News. The move comes nearly two decades after the federal government cut Pell grant funding to inmates and essentially ended postsecondary education in prisons. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally.
“We want to build the evidence that investment in postsecondary education is a cost-effective intervention and a wise use of public dollars,” said Fred Patrick of the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, which awarded Michigan a grant for the work. “We also want to show it succeeds at reducing recidivism, supports families and contributes to the economic base of communities.” There are 42,000 inmates in Michigan’s 31 state prisons. Of those, nearly half come in with a high school diploma or General Educational Development certificate. Inmates who are released have a 43 percent chance of returning to prison, but research has shown graduating inmates from college programs can decrease recidivism 72 percent, says Vera.