How Higher Education Can Change the Future for Incarcerated Californians

Access to Postsecondary Education as an Antidote to Recidivism

Education is key for economic and social mobility. This is especially true for California’s more than 500,000 [1] incarcerated and formerly incarcerated adults. Incarcerated adults' access to higher education in prison lowers the odds of recidivating by 43 percent and increases the likelihood of employment by 13 percent, while saving $5 for every $1 spent.[2] Realizing the importance of a postsecondary degree for this population, California has launched successful partnerships between our higher education and criminal justice systems. 

However even with this progress, too many incarcerated adults face significant barriers that keep them from accessing these in-prison educational opportunities. 

In particular, financial aid restrictions limit their ability to fully utilize the postsecondary programs that would strengthen California’s communities and workforce. Policymakers are considering opportunities for increasing access to financial aid for this population.

Continue reading to learn more about how and why these policies could change the future for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated adults.


1. Prison Policy Initiative, California profile (2018). 2. Lois M. Davis, Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, and Jeremy N.V. Miles, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs that Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults (RAND Corporation, 2013). 

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