WASHINGTON (Jan. 7) – Of the approximately 39,000 individuals being held in Michigan prisons, the overwhelming majority will eventually return to society. For this reason, Michigan residents and policymakers must be concerned with justice-involved individuals’ ability to be productive and engaged members of society upon their return. However, research suggests that lack of education increasingly limits the employment options of formerly incarcerated individuals, promoting their return to crime.

In a new policy paper, Emily Mooney, Jesse Kelley and Nila Bala of R Street’s Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties team provide a short history of postsecondary education within prisons and explain why it is an important part of the solution to this problem, as well as a benefit to society as a whole.

The paper argues that postsecondary education in prisons is smart for public safety and taxpayers’ pocketbooks, and can create a safer, more positive community behind bars. Postsecondary education can increase earnings and economic opportunity and is known to support healthier, stronger families–the bedrock of our communities. It transforms unproductive time behind bars into a training program for a better future. Expanding these programs benefits all.

The authors add: “Higher levels of education are associated with more positive health outcomes and reduced mortality. Moreover, when a parent has a postsecondary education, a child is more likely to attend college as well, which passes additional positive health and education impacts to the next generation. Providing prisoners a postsecondary education may offer these positive spillover effects, leading to a healthier, stronger Michigan community.”