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Contact: Beth Kuhles
kuhles@shsu.edu
936-294-4425
Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State tests prison education programs

HUNTSVILLE, TX (1/30/13 )-- More than 63,000 offenders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice participated in educational programs offered by the Windham School District during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which have been found to decrease recidivism rates, increase employment opportunities, and result in higher wages and higher levels of educational achievement among participants, a study at Sam Houston State University found.

Faculty from the College of Criminal Justice and Correctional Management Institute of Texas at SHSU evaluated the effectiveness of education and vocational programs offered by the school district on offender outcomes. Some of the programs included were the Adult Basic Education Program, which includes literacy training and GED preparation; the Post Secondary Education Program, which provides continuing education in vocational and academic settings; Career and Technical Education, which integrates career path planning and technology training to prepare offenders for the workforce; and the Cognitive Intervention Program, which addresses thinking patterns and is designed to improve behavior.

The study was based on offenders released from TDCJ facilities in Fiscal Year 2009, whose activities were followed through 2012. In FY2009, there were 72,218 offenders released from state prisons, with 51,058 or 70 percent who participated in educational programs offered by the Windham School District. Offenders who participated in adult basic education classes achieved "significantly higher" reading, math and language scores than non-program participants, and those advancements, particularly in reading, resulted in much lower re-incarceration rates among offenders, the study found. The study compared recidivism rates among first time offenders with person, property, drug and other crimes with offenders who did not participate in the Windham programs.

In addition to education and recidivism, offenders who participated in Windham educational programs generally had higher earnings than those who did not. Participants in the vocational certification programs and cognitive intervention program earned "significantly higher" wages after their release from prison, with an average of $3,010.59 and $3,180.81 earned respectively each quarter. This compared to $2,843.65 and $2,795.39 earned quarterly by those who did not take part in Windham educational offerings.

The study, entitled "Evaluation of the Windham School District Correctional Education Program," was a collaborate effort between Sam Houston State University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The report is expected to be presented to various members of the Texas State Legislature.

In addition to the evaluation of the effectiveness of programs, the report also highlighted some of the district achievements in the 2010-11 academic year, during which nearly 74,500 offenders participated in correctional education programs. Among those were 35,000 offenders who participated in literacy programs, more than 1,300 who were in special education, and nearly 1,000 who enrolled in ESL classes. As a result, 5,169 GED certificates were issued to program participants, with 85 percent of those who took the test passed it. In addition, more than 8,000 offenders participated in post-secondary education efforts, earning 447 Associate's degrees, 31 Bachelor's degrees and nine Master's degrees.

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