Prison Education Programs, Incarcerations, and Recidivism


The challenge of reoffending, commonly known as recidivism, is critical to many prison systems or rehabilitation centers. Globally, prison departments have come up with different programs to facilitate the successful rehabilitation of offenders and ensure their smooth transition back into their societies. According to Byrne (2020), prioritizing BOP programs and sentence reduction alongside a participatory approach among inmates is an effective strategy for reducing recidivism. Again, prior completion of prison education programs reduces aggression and violence during incarceration (Duke, 2018). Studies show that recidivism is often associated with mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, and the dynamics of their societies (Herbst et al., 2016). Generally, it is estimated that almost three out of every four incarcerated criminals will reoffend and return to prison upon release. Such statics presents a significant challenge for many states worldwide as prison management becomes a major problem.

Recidivism remains a significant problem in the US and the rest of the world because it ultimately clogs the judiciary system. Between 2005 and 2010, 58-68% of incarcerated women were rearrested in at least 30 states for a new crime or repetition (Herbst et al., 2016). Ideally, the occurrence of recidivism in rehabilitation facilities derails the achievement of economic growth and development of the states. It is suggested that recidivism happens because of inadequate employment opportunities, basic needs, and perhaps stigmatization from society members. In essence, the inmates must understand their worth and recognize their potential while incarcerated. Such a rehabilitation and learning process can only occur when effective state and prison education programs and corrective measures are implemented. This literature review aims to evaluate the effectiveness of different prison programs and approaches in reducing recidivism in rehabilitation centers.

Prison Education Programs and Recidivism

Inmate education plays a fundamental role in determining whether an individual will be rearrested or not upon release into society. According to Duke (2018), they are comparing individuals who acquired higher education before incarceration portrays low recidivism upon release compared to those who did not achieve the same level. Also, availing correctional education to inmates seems to reduce the rate of recidivism in many prisons. Therefore, it implies that lower education or lack of it constitutes a higher level of unemployment, homelessness, mental challenges, or poverty, ultimately pushing criminals to face recidivism upon release back to society. Inmates who have higher education before incarceration or during rehabilitation tend to have a higher rate of successful re-union with their people as opposed to those who do not have an education.

Also, inmate education programs empower them to become self-reliant and prepared to face life outside prisons and rehabilitation centers. According to Pelletier and Evans (2019), higher education programs provide capacity inmates with valuable communication and life skills that help them become successful members of their social backgrounds. Again, the information passed in the education programs empowers inmates to become responsible citizens who understand the existence of opportunities in different environments (Roessger et al., 2021). In addition, education seems to have a critical transformation impact on the inmates, shaping their relationships with the public and their families upon return to society (Vandala, 2019; Pelletier & Evans, 2019). Therefore, prison education programs should be designed with the aim of molding the understanding, reasoning, and characters of inmates to reduce recidivism in prisons.

Moreover, higher education for inmates proves to be an effective strategy for reducing incarceration among the population. As a result, many prison officials consider using innovation and creative skills to implement post-secondary programs. According to Duke (2018), these programs help increase inmates’ self-confidence and transform their behavior while helping them become law-abiding citizens. An example of a commonly used strategy is cognitive behavioral therapy programs, including therapeutic risk control measures and self-actualization training, which seek to transform the cognitive behaviors of the inmates (Pelletier & Evans, 2019). Therefore, there is a need for government agencies to increase funding for these educational programs to help reduce recidivism among the incarcerated population.

Policing, Programs, and Recidivism

Utilizing evidence-based policing as a multidisciplinary strategy helps prison wardens understand the inmates’ problems and the reasons for their recidivism upon release. According to Herbst et al. (2016), some identified leading causes of recidivism among incarcerated women of all races include illegal substance abuse, mental health challenges, poverty, and homelessness. Therefore, it is recommended that the state’s policing approaches should aim at ensuring a smooth transition from prisons back into their villages. For instance, McKenna (2018) contends that programs targeting re-entry should aim at easing ex-convict rejoinder into the family. Ideally, the aim of each of these programs should encompass a strategy that should utilize research and evidence-based decisions to find amicable solutions for the inmates during their rehabilitation stages.

Moreover, cognitive therapy programs such as mental health programs and inmate education on re-entry and work programs can help these ex-convicts avoid criminal offenses upon release into society. For instance, Byrne (2020) insists on prioritizing the BOP programs among inmates as a strategic way of reducing recidivism in different states. Byrne further alludes that evidence-based programs seem to have a higher impact on the transformation of the incarcerated population and help correction facilities reduce the number of prison offenders.

The sovereignty of States, Security, and Inmate Recidivism

The other factor identified as a critical variable in inmate recidivism is personal security associated with state sovereignty. A nationwide longitudinal study by Yu et al. (2022) indicates that prison environment and inmate security concerns significantly impact recidivism among inmates in the long run. States with marginalized populations may face higher incarcerations, including racially segregated communities. Ideally, there seems to be a correlation between the security levels in prison and factors such as mortality and recidivism of inmates from different states. Several concerns exist around security issues around the mortality or health framework existing within the state.

The other critical component in prison management and recidivism reduction policies is the sovereignty of nations or states. In many multilevel governance systems, for instance, in the US, a structure recognizes each layer of government before integrating the approach to reduce recidivism. However, the variations in the perception of sovereignty across these states may also affect the operations of prisons. As a result, some states may realize a higher number of recidivism cases as compared to others in different states, depending on their working policies. For instance, some inmates may report discriminatory treatment, while some prisons because of racial discrimination. In fact, racial discrimination is a significant problem in modern society that stigmatizes ex-convicts forcing them back into prisons in some cases. Essentially, Piza, Szkola, and Blount-Hill (2021) confirm that a complete sense of sovereignty diversity across the different states of America significantly enhances such perceptions relating to varying inmate behaviors. In the end, it is essential to harmonize these state sovereignty policies and ensure that the prison systems work to integrate every stakeholder and reduce recidivism as a major threat to social justice in the country.

Factors for Rearrests and Recidivism among Inmates

Scholars from different quotas opine that several factors contribute to recidivism among many of the US inmates. However, some of the major factors include unemployment, homelessness, fear of stigmatization, and losing touch with reality, values, and family members. For instance, many inmates would argue that their stay in prison contributed to their loss of jobs and source of living, forcing them to live a new life without income. In addition, Herbst et al. (2016) assert that many women are the victims of mental health problems and drug abuse forcing them back into prison.

Again, government involvement and bureaucracy in providing food and social welfare also contribute to recidivism in some states. For instance, in cases where the federal release social welfare cash to ex-convicts, there are low reports of recidivism among prisons and vice versa. At the same time, providing adequate social amenities and primary health care services would also reduce recidivism when there is a practical multidimensional approach within the prisons. Ex-convicts assured of such services will freely reunite with their families and enjoy equal opportunities without struggling with the new normal of post-jail. Therefore, competent governance should seek to provide equal opportunities for everyone in society and promote an integrated, evidence-based decision-making model in tackling challenges in prisons and rehabilitation centers.

Success Variations in Prisons

Researchers indicate that different factors affect the success rates of prison programs and education strategies for reducing recidivism among inmates. Herbst et al. (2016) contend that regulating social risks and reoffending triggers is a fundamental factor to consider in any policing decision. Also, integrated approaches, including community-led programs, can help the state to lower incarceration and reoffending chances. This approach promotes public support and boosts self-transformation among inmates. Ideally, public support proves to be vital in influencing the associations between inmates and their society members.

Moreover, there are variations in prisons’ records of recidivism because of release policies and community reception. For example, many inmates often get back to their villages when they feel they have lost almost everything. They immediately think about how they will survive without a job or immediate income (Roessger et al., 2021). As such, failing to get a job at such a point will then translate to them thinking of crime and ways to acquire instantaneous income sources. States with social protection funds and sufficient social amenities will then realize a higher rate of success in reducing recidivism by absorbing the ex-convicts into these programs. Therefore, there is a need to enact prison release policies that promote the social welfare of prisoners in different centers.

Governments’ Roles

From various research findings, states play a crucial role in shaping the performance of criminal and social justice systems. As such, the success of prison education programs depends on factors such as the allocation of funds to different departments. Byrne (2020) established that federal states have the mandate of ensuring an integrated approach to prison management, focusing on including all stakeholders to minimize prison recidivism. Also, Herbst et al. (2016) contend that states also have a pivotal role in shaping the policing and transition of inmates back to their social backgrounds.

In many cases, failure to invest in mental health programs proves to be a significant cause of alarming recidivism statistics in different prisons around the world. For example, the US government endures a tremendous recidivism rate owing to high drug and substance abuse among ex-convicts (Yu et al., 2022). Therefore, investing in primary healthcare and social amenities will offer an opportunity for the victims to become better citizens who understand and abide by the rule of law within their countries.


The challenge of recidivism goes beyond its implications of clogging the judiciary systems and affecting the operation of prisons. Notably, recidivism remains a significant threat to social safety and coherence since some individuals may not break out of the rehabilitation cycle. Therefore, there is a need to establish some of the best strategies to eliminate the occurrence of this vice, have become a significant priority for many states, especially within the US. Based on the various research data, evidence-based programs, risk analysis, education policing, and state sovereignty have a pivotal role in reducing recidivism among incarcerated criminals. Such revelations also indicate that some states realize more success with their rehabilitation approaches because of their sovereignty coupled with effective implementation of good policing, financing, and ensuring adequate prison training or education programs. As a result, government should invest in evidence-based research, allocate sufficient funds to prison department, provide better health care services and promote social welfare to all citizens to minimize recidivism. Again, it is important to design the education programs to meet the needs of every incarcerated population at all times during rehabilitation decision-making instances.


Byrne, J. (2020). The effectiveness of prison programming: A review of the research literature examining the impact of federal, state, and local inmate programming on post-release recidivism. Federal Probation, 84(1), 3–20. Web.

Duke, B. (2018). A meta-analysis comparing educational attainment prior to incarceration and recidivism rates in relation to correctional education. Journal of Correctional Education, 69(1), 44–59. Web.

Herbst, J.H., Branscomb-Burgess, O., Gelaude, D.J., Seth, P., Parker, S., & Fogel, C.J. (2016). Risk profiles of women for prevention programs. AIDS Education and Prevention, 28(4), 299-311.

McKenna, P. F. (2018). Evidence-based policing in Canada. Canadian Public Administration, 61(1), 135–140.

Pelletier, E., & Evans, D. (2019). Beyond recidivism: Positive outcomes from higher education programs in prisons. Journal of Correctional Education, 70(2), 49-68. Web.

Piza, E. L., Szkola, J., & Blount-Hill, K. L. (2021). How can embedded criminologists, police PR academics, and crime analysts help increase police-led program evaluations? A survey of authors cited in the evidence-based policing matrix. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 15(2), 1217-1231.

Roessger, K.M., Liang, X., Weese, J., & Parker, D. (2021). Examining moderating effects on the relationship between correctional education and post-release outcomes. Journal of Correctional Education, 72(1), 13–42. Web.

Vandala, N. G. (2019). The transformative effect of correctional education: A global perspective. Cogent Social Sciences, 5(1), 1677122.

Yu, R., Langstrom, N., Forsman, M., Sjoander, A., Fazel, S., &Molero, Y. (2022). Associations between prisons and recidivism: A nationwide longitudinal study. PLoS ONE, 17(5), 1-18. Web.

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LawBirdie. "Prison Education Programs, Incarcerations, and Recidivism." August 17, 2023.