Prison education programs have seen significant budget cuts in recent years. This is despite clear evidence that illiteracy and education deficiencies are driving forces behind incarceration, and that providing education like GED, college or vocational courses can make huge differences for inmates in the system.
Costs of incarceration and education
Cutting prison education might help states balance their correctional budgets in the short term and providing new programs certainly have initial costs. However, if we track education’s success in providing inmates with the tools obtain employment, stabilize their lives and stay out of prison after release, we find that the programs more than pay for themselves in the long run.
In terms of baseline incarceration, it costs an average of about $31K to keep one person in prison for one year, according to a 2012 study by the Vera Institute that averaged data from 40 participating states. States vary widely in costs per inmate, as every corrections system has different structures, policies and populations. For comparison, Kentucky has the lowest cost per inmate, at $15K, while the highest is New York, at $59K.
Adding educational costs into the fold, it costs an average of about $1,400 to $1,744 to educate one person in prison for one year, according to a 2013 meta analysis of correctional education studies from RAND Corporation which took into account two different studies from the 2000s on correctional education costs.
Since studies on correctional education are…