Brad Schrade in the Tennessean had a front page story on Sunday about a Nashville nonprofit involved in prison charity that has “a history of mismanagement and other problems.” The group, which has received $3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds is “being called before a state legislative committee to explain itself.”
I know that it’s not a “sexy” subject, but prisoner reform should be a serious concern for all of us. There already is a serious problem getting enough resources to prisoner reform projects. And if these charges are substantiated, that sets the cause back even further.
There are about 1.5 million people in American prisons right now–about one-half of one percent of the American population. Most of them are male. A disproportionate number of them are minorities. Some studies have even indicated that a young black male is more likely to be an alumnus of the penal system than of the university system.
Here are some more statistics that are even scarier.* 82% of the nation’s inmates are high school droupouts. 60% are illiterate. And 63% are repeat offenders. That means that most people in prison today will be back in prison again after they’re released from time served for their current offenses. Though I haven’t seen the correlation between recidivism and high school dropouts, from the above, it’s likely quite high. We need to break that cycle. And it seems to me that the way to do that is through education.
So here’s an idea I’d like some input on–especially from those with some experience with (or even in) the penal system: Would it be worthwhile to increase opportunities for continuing education for Tennessee’s prisoners, coupled with prohibiting parole for prisoners without a high school diploma or GED?
I’d like your thoughts. (If you’d like to email me your comments anonymously, please send them to Bob
atBobKrumm dotcom. I’ll post your remarks unedited.)
* The source for those statistics was a presentation delivered by David Kelley. I didn’t have an opportunity to ask him for his original sources.