When it comes to the topic of education in prisons, which we will call Corrections Education, there tends to be two camps of opinion among incarcerated individuals. Let us call these the pro and con sides (no pun intended). The pro-side includes those who support Correction Education and strive to be, or already are, enrolled in an education program. The con-side includes those who may be either totally against the idea of Corrections Education or have a personal reason for not being involved. As a member of the newly founded ASB Student Council called, “The Voice” at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Washington, I believe Corrections Education is a huge opportunity for every incarcerated individual regardless of their background. Let’s take a closer look at the pro and con views to see whether or not Corrections Education can benefit all incarcerated individuals; we’ll begin with the pro-side.
Pro-siders, generally speaking, have two major reasons for supporting Corrections Education. The first reason is they are ready for change. Many pro-siders have resolved to do whatever it takes to better themselves while incarcerated so they don’t make the same bad decisions that brought them to prison. They refuse to allow being in prison to define who they are and keep them from being a success, and they are willing to do whatever is necessary to make the changes they need to achieve that success. The second major reason pro-siders value corrections education is they recognize and desire its many benefits. The first benefit, and probably the greatest, is those who are involved in Corrections Education have a greatly reduced chance for recidivism than those who are not. Currently, not one person who has graduated from the Associate’s Degree program here at CRCC has returned to prison. Corrections Education exposes students to new ways of thinking. It helps them expand their knowledge and their skills in problem-solving: traits essential to becoming a success. Another benefit is that knowledge and skills acquired in vocational programs make students desirable candidates to potential employers. Those with higher education, on average, tend to make more money than those without, which gives them the capacity to live a comfortable life and the ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones. The final benefits I will mention are what we at “The Voice” call “The Key Themes”: Hope, Confidence, Personal-Growth, Integrity, and Success. Coming to prison is a huge blow to a person’s self-worth. Many may feel they are a failure and unworthy of happiness or redemption; as a result, many succumb to the “convict” mentality. Corrections Education is the key that unlocks the door for a better life for an incarcerated individual. It gives hope for a better future where many of us may have never had such hope before. This hope then gives us confidence; confidence to step outside our comfort zone to become a new person. This change is personal growth because we are not actively taking steps to be the change we desire and not just imagine it. In our personal growth, we gain integrity because we have found something worth all the hard work and lifestyle changes and we don’t want to risk losing it; that something is success.
Now let’s have a look into the con-side of the divide. As with the pro-side, con-sides have two major reasons but this time for not supporting or being involved in Corrections Education. The first is from those who see no benefit in Corrections Education. For any reader in this category, please refer back to the benefits mentioned in the pro-side argument, and remember, these are just a few of the many benefits of Corrections Education. The second type of con-sider are those who have a personal reason for not taking part in Corrections Education. Here are a few of the most common reasons a con-sider may have. “School takes too much time. I’d rather: work, go to yard/gym, hang out with friends.” Having money for commissary is nice; I get that. However, if you recall from the pro-side benefits, “those with higher education tend to make more money than those without.” Is the dollar-fifty or so that you’re able to make now at a job in prison worth missing out on the higher salary you can make in a career outside of prison? Are your muscles or buddies going to pay your bills and support you when you get out? “It’s too much work.” Higher education is a lot of hard work indeed, but it is all worth it in the end. Why? Yep, you guessed it, those benefits from the pro-side. “I’m not smart enough.” Those of you who think… Stop! Do not allow fear of failure to prevent you from even trying. Here at CRCC the teachers are amazing and put forth great effort to help their students succeed. There are also tutors and teaching assistants to help students. If you put in the time and effort you can achieve success. “I have too much time and can’t take classes.” Yes, unfortunately, those with over 7 years left to serve are unable to enroll in classes here at CRCC. However, don’t let that stop you from getting a higher education. There are ways to obtain funds to pay for classes you can do via mail correspondence. The Prison Scholar Fund is a major asset to help incarcerated individuals obtain a higher education. If you look hard enough, you will find a way to get a higher education.
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the pro-side and con-side views of Corrections Education among incarcerated individuals, I ask you to look within yourself to see which you are and why. If you’re currently enrolled in an education program, I encourage you to do your best and stay focused so you can finish strong. For those of you not enrolled, for whatever reason, I hope you have been inspired in how to overcome whatever may be preventing you from being involved. To all incarcerated individuals – I challenge you all to use your time in prison to better yourself so you never have to come back. Take advantage of any opportunity offered to help you become a successful, contributing member of society. Finally, I hope you too can now agree that Corrections Education can benefit all incarcerated individuals.