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The Effects of Postsecondary Correctional Education: Final Report

NCJ Number
Laura Winterfield; Mark Coggeshall; Michelle Burke-Stover; Vanessa Correa; Simon Todd
Date Published
May 2009
48 pages

This final report presents a brief history of postsecondary education in American corrections before providing details and results from an analysis of the effects of prison-based post-secondary education on offenders while incarcerated and after release; appendices include supporting documents and a detailed outcome analysis by state.


The authors describe an evaluation of the effects of prison-based post-secondary education (PSE) on criminal offenders while incarcerated and after prison release. This final report seeks to answer two basic questions: how do offenders and stakeholders view the value of PSE programming within their facilities; and does participation in PSE reduce recidivism once important differences among offenders participating and not participating in PSE are taken into account, and does the specific model of PSE delivery or institutional type change the effects of PSE. The authors took a two-pronged approach in answering those questions, first, a qualitative analysis of inmate focus groups and stakeholder interviews, and then a quantitative study of administrative data to assess the relationship between PSE participation and post-release recidivism. The results of the qualitative component of the study indicated that inmates viewed their ability to engage in PSE as positive in ways that should contribute to their success after release. The results of the quantitative study, however, provided mixed results in terms of PSE’s impact on post-release recidivism. In two of the three participating states, PSE was associated with a decrease in recidivism, while in the third state it was associated with an increase. However, only one of the effects, a decrease in recidivism, was statistically significant. The authors conclude that additional research is required to more clearly specify the relationship between prison-based PSE and recidivism.