Access to Good Education, Jobs Scarce in Federal Prisons

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Access to high-quality education is scarce in federal prisons, says Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) on the basis of a survey of federal prisoners. Most classes lack rigor and substance, and are taught by other prisoners, the survey found. Inmates reported taking classes such as crocheting and one based on the TV show Jeopardy. Attaining a college degree is difficult or impossible for most prisoners. The survey reports that most jobs made available to inmates are “make work,” such as cleaning bathrooms and living spaces or dining hall services. Vocational training is popular but is offered only to prisoners close to their release dates.

Two-thirds of respondents said they entered prison with a drug or alcohol addiction. More than two-thirds said they had not received mental or behavioral health treatment in prison. Family connections have been proved to reduce recidivism, yet most prisoners are housed more than 500 air miles away from home. FAMM made recommendations for reform. “Roughly 94 percent of federal prisoners are going to go home one day. If they leave smarter, sober, and job-ready, they will be much more likely to thrive—and our country will be safer and more prosperous,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. He said the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the year beginning Oct. 1 would reduce staff for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, making inmate problems worse.

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