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Career and Technical Education in United States Prisons: What Have We Learned?

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Education Volume: 60 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2009 Pages: 191-200
Shakoor A. Ward
Date Published
September 2009
10 pages
This examination of the effects of career and technical education (CTE) in U.S. prisons reviews relevant research that has conflicting results and inferences.
The hypotheses addressed in the studies reviewed are whether CTE programs lead to fewer disciplinary violations during incarceration, as well as whether CTE is related to recidivism reductions, increases in employment opportunities, and increases in participation in education after release from prison. One of the two main studies reviewed, the Prison Education Research Project (PERF), found that CTE in prison lowered postrelease recidivism rates and parole revocations while producing better postrelease employment patterns; and CTE participants had better disciplinary records in prison compared to nonparticipants. PERF reviewed 60 studies related to the impact of CTE in prison, which involved 14,411 inmates released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice between March 1991 and December 1992. The second main study reviewed was Robert Martinson's 1974 study entitled, "What Works? Questions and Answers About Prison Reform." After reviewing studies and research reports on the effectiveness of correctional treatment that were published between 1945 and 1967, Martinson concluded that "...with few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism." Regarding CTE specifically, Martinson concluded that the CTE types of training offered in prisons do not prepare the prisoner with the skills that are needed outside of prison. In assessing the divergent findings of research on the effectiveness of CTE, the current essay advises that without adequate control techniques that take into account the many variables that may have an effect on the various outcomes, it is difficult to speak definitively about the impact of CTE programs. Suggestions are offered for future research in this area. 12 references