Whichever chamber prevails, in the scheme of things this will be the second major cut to vocational ed at TDCJ in a decade. During the last major budget crunch, WISD also took a hit: "In 2003, Windham School District faced similar funding issues. The superintendent said the district reduced staff by 35 percent and the remaining employees took pay cuts."
Bottom line, the question becomes whether extra incarceration costs from increased recidivism outweigh the expense of in-prison programming: "Windham says graduates of their programs are 11 percent less likely to end up behind bars again," the TV station reports. It's impossible to tell without more data how much increased recidivism among this cohort might cost in expanded incarceration costs, but one thing's for sure: It's not zero. And whatever the sum required, it's not being incorporated into TDCJ's budget. Instead, legislators appear to be pretending they can cut reentry and anti-recidivism programming without any effect on future incarceration rates. Grits suspects they've got another think coming.
MORE (5/4): From the Wall Street Journal, which reports on a new study which:
argues "federal and state statutes should be revised to support the development and expansion of Internet-based delivery" of education. The report also recommends "federal and state statutes should be amended to make specific categories of incarcerated persons eligible for financial aid."Though Texas is cited as one of 13 states providing prisoners access to post-secondary education, that funding has been slated for the chopping block in proposed budgets. Most "college" courses for Texas inmates are vocational ed classes provided by community colleges.
Inmate education in America plummeted after President Bill Clinton's crime bill of 1994 rendered federal and state prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants, a form of federal financial aid for college.
Since then, the educational opportunities for state inmates have varied dramatically from state to state. According to the study, 13 states have made it a priority: Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and New York.
"Keeping someone in prison costs about the same per year as sending them to Harvard," said Max Kenner, founder of the Bard Prison Initiative, a privately funded nonprofit that brings Bard College classes to prisoners in five facilities in New York. Published research shows that prisoners who obtain post-secondary degrees are much less likely than others to return to crime upon release, Mr. Kenner said.
A policy statement from the American Correctional Association, a trade group for correctional professionals, says that "public and private agencies should develop, expand, adequately fund and improve delivery systems for academic, occupational and other educational programs for charged and adjudicated juvenile and adult offenders."