Free Argumentative Essay About Prisoners Should Be Given A Free Education

Published: 2021-06-18 05:11:23
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Category: Education, Students, Society, Social Issues, Crime, Prison, Free Education, Jail

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Should prisoners be given free education?
The history of American prison can be traced back to 1791. This is the year when the first true American prison, Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia was established (Coley & Barton, 2006) The US prisons were established to achieve three main objectives: to promote public security, to enhance prisoner’s reformation and to ensure humanity of the prisoners. Based on the last two objectives, many prisons started offering basic education in the early 1880s. However, it is until the early 1960s when the US prisons started offering post secondary education to the inmates (Coley & Barton, 2006). The federal governments provided grants to ensure that inmates access college education for free. The move by the federal government to provide free college education to the inmates created a hot debate in the US with some Americans are supporting it while other fiercely opposed it. In 1994, the Congress passed a law that prohibited the inmates from receiving Pell Grants. The implementation of this law leads to defunding of post secondary education in all prisons. To get a better insight and an in depth understanding of the topic, this paper will try to answer these questions:
How does free education benefits the prisoners?
Does the society gain by catering for free education for the prisoners?
What are other value prisoners get after accessing free education in jail?
The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the premises of both the proponents and opponents of free education for prisoner and prepare to consider tracing the root of recidivism in the society as the solution.
How does free education benefits the prisoners?
Prisoners’ education plays a crucial role in reducing recidivism. According to Michael Gryboski, prisons have a bigger role to play in ensuring that inmates reform other than merely arresting the wrong doers. Gryboski (2014) believes that the fact that the majority of the inmates have very low literacy level increases, their chances of returning to crime after they are released from the prison. “Education for prisoners is a crucial component for the reformed prisoners who were leaving prison and willing to change” (Gryboski, 2014). He concluded that there is need to do more than strictly punishing the offenders. This can only be achieved by equipping them well with lifelong skills after being released.
Similar thoughts can be traced on the on the “time to learn’ publication of 2010. The author of the publication believes that providing post secondary education for the inmates is the key pillar for enhancing their reformations. “Majority of the prisoners believes education is the only route of their previous lives” (John, 2010). In this publication, the ‘Time to learn’ conducts numerous interviews in various US prisons. Among the findings that the author report is that the majority of the inmates are willing to change after prison and believes that free education will help them a lot to reform.
Does society gain by catering for free education for prisoners?
The research by Maximino et al 2014 found that prisoners’ education has positive impacts on recidivism, finding job after employment and prisoners ability to read and do maths. The reports found that the inmates who participated in the prisoners education had 43 percent chances lower of recidivating than those who never attended. From this perspective, prisoner’s education reduces crimes in the society which means society is benefiting directly. “Every dollar spent on prison education could save up to five dollars on three year reinsertion costs” (Maximino et al 2014)
The article published by the Morning Side Review in 2014 also had similar thoughts opposing the need to provide free education to the inmates. The author of the article, Tabitha Cohen was analyzing the premises of the Bald Prison Initiative, a nonprofit organization formed to provide tertiary education to the inmates. Cohen states that “despite the fact that offering free education to the inmates may play a key role in reducing crimes and recidivism, the prisoner and the society at large may never reap the benefits of educating the inmates” (Cohen, 2014). Some of the prisoners are serving long term jail even others are jailed for life and therefore the point of reducing recidivism and increasing job opportunities for prisoners are irrelevant.
Swimpson (2008) also believes that prisoners should not be given free education. He believes that it is unfair for the hard working law abiding Americans to pay for their college education while inmates access it for free. He further states that if the prisoners have to access tertiary education, they should pay just like any other US citizen.
However, Gammon (2002) argues apart from reducing recidivism, educating prisoners also reduce the number of inmates in going to jail. By taking care of prisoner’s education, the society increases a number of knowledgeable citizens in the community. Taxpayer’s money will not be used in building more prison amenities.
What are other value prisoners get after accessing free education in jail?
Majority of the prisoners have very low literacy level which makes it hard for them to access better job opportunities in the society. However, by ensuring that prisoner’s access education during their jail term, their thinking capacity is transformed. “If the prison cannot find means of utilizing online learning and others programs to help prisoners know how to read and be productive, how are they expected to get jobs after being released?” (Gryboski, 2014). This makes the prisoners self reliant, innovative and ambitious after release as they look forward to change. In contrast, for the prisoners who are not willing to change, education will most likely to harm them more. For instance, some prisoners only end up becoming smart criminals after their releases as education better their skills.
Based on the arguments presented in the previous section of this paper, provision of free education is a hot debate and every side provides tangible evidence to defend their stand. Critically analyzing the premises of the two sides, there are compromises as well strong areas that can benefit the society at large. As Zgaga (2010) point out, education plays a crucial role in social reconstruction, both at an individual and society level as one is able to detect their flaws and corrects them. Based on the analysis of the premises presented by the two sides, it is clear that both sides want a more secure and stable society that is free from crime culprits. However, criminal acts by some of the members in the society prove to be a stumbling block to the achievement of the common goal. In addition, the need for a secure and stable society by the two sides aligns with the three main objectives of the US prisons, which are to enhance public security, ensure prisoners reformation and promotes humanity. If the prisoners are to be provided with free education, their literacy level will increase, thus will have a higher chance of securing a better job after being released. However, by providing free education means that the law abiding citizens will have to pay for the education of the wrong doers despite the harm they have caused to the society. This does not make sense on the ground that the law abiding citizens struggle to get school fees to cater for their tertiary education. On the contrary, failing to provide education to the inmates means that the citizens will continue providing money to cater for the inmates’ basic needs while they are in prisons. This is because it is observed that a higher number of prisoners who never receive education while in jail have higher chances of committing crime again compared to those who received education during their jail term (Maximino et al, 2014). The inmates who have received education during their jail term have a chance of 43 percent lower in returning to crime as compared to those who did not(Maximino et al, 2014) For instance, the opposing sides argue that the law abiding citizens works hard to secure a college education admission as well as getting school fees.
The supporting side also argues that raising the literacy level of the inmates reduces chances of them committing the crime again and returning to jail. Therefore, it is fair to say that the premises on both sides play a crucial role in creating awareness of the importance of education in the society. As a result, the federal government and the society at large should focus on addressing the root of the cause of the crime rather being rigid in supporting or opposing the topic. For instance, the government should make the education accessible to all Americans; reduce the illiteracy level as both sides have clearly identified it as the cause of the crime in the US. Analyzing the results of the initiative in terms of economic benefits to the society and the prisoners might not be the best approach in addressing the issue. This is because whether the society caters for the education expenses of the inmates is either a win-win or lose-lose situation depending on the cost of the crime to the society. This is because a failed society affects everybody in the society, regardless of their position.
In a recap, provision of free education to the inmates will remain a hot debate due to the magnitude of the topic. Addressing on the key steps on how to increase the literacy level in the society should be the main topic of discussion rather whether prisoners should be provided with free education or not. Education plays a crucial role in transforming the society as it increases one’s reasoning thus increasing chances of making sound decisions. Based on the analysis of the premises presented by the two sides, there is clear evidence that illiteracy plays a crucial role in encouraging people to commit crime. A higher number of the inmates have a high illiteracy level, thus they are disadvantaged in securing better opportunities in the society. The effect of a failed society affects everybody despite their social status or position. For instance, if an individual commits a murder, crime, there is loss of life in the society. In addition, the society continues to cater for the basic needs of the prisoner once he/she is locked in jail. Therefore, the best alternative is to address the root of the crimes in the society for a long run benefits.
John, G. (2003). Time to learn. Retrieved on 12th May 2015 from
Cohen, T. (2014). College-in-prison for inmates serving life sentences. Retrieved 12th May 2015
Coley, J. & Barton, P. (2006). Locked up and locked out. An educational perspective on the U.S prison population. Retrieved on 12th May 2015 from
Gaes, G. (2008). The impact of prison education programs on post-release outcomes. Retrieved on 12th May 2015 from
Garmon, J. (2002). Higher education for prisoners will lower rates for taxpayers. Black Issues in Higher Education, 18(24), 32. Retrieved from
Gryboski, M. (2014). Prisoners should get free education to reduce recidivism, Newt Gingrich says. Retrieved on 12th May 2015 from
Maximino et al, (2014). Effects of prison education programs: research findings. Retrieved on 12th May 2015 from
Swimpson, A. (2008). The impact of post secondary education on recidivism of female prisoners. New York. ProQuest.
Zgaga, P. (2010). The importance of education in social reconstruction. Retrieved 12th May 2015 from

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