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The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention should implement an

education system equivalent in quality to traditional public schools in all juvenile prisons
to lower recidivism rates, reduce poverty, and shrink the achievement gap. The United
States is a leading world power, with the largest economy in the world, a 99% literacy
rate, and safe drinking water available for all ("North America: United States"). But there
is one thing off with all these positive statistics; the US has the highest incarceration rate
in the world. This problem is not based off of crime rates. In fact, crime has gone down
(Kearney and Harris) but the incarceration rate continues to rise. There is a direct tie
between graduation rates and incarceration rates. States with higher levels of high school
graduation usually have an imprisonment rate lower than the national average (Page et
al.). Minorities are also more likely to face educational barriers and therefore have a
disproportional population in prison as compared to the general public (Page et al.).
Education is the root of many problems and solutions and juvenile prison is a perfect
opportunity for mandatory learning. This is where the reconstruction must start, by
educating the youth in jail a chain reaction will occur, with lowering recidivism rates, a
smaller educational disparity, and a reduction in poverty.
Recidivism is a large problem. The goal of prison, along with punishment for
whatever crime committed, is to rehabilitate the prisoners and set them on the right track.
In juvenile prisons this is especially important because the minors have not developed
fully and are usually more impressionable than adults who have been committing crimes
for much longer. Juveniles in prisons have also most likely not graduated high school and
the less education a person has the greater likelihood of he or she getting involved in
illegal activity. More than 75% of people in jail will end up incarcerated later on. Over

half of those arrests happen in the first year after release from jail ("Recidivism"). Many
of these prisoners start out in juvenile prison, where they are not educated or skilled in a
specific field and have trouble finding a job. There are many ideas of how to rehabilitate
prisoners. Some think that the punishment of prison alone will be enough to scare
criminals out of committing future crimes. But this has not sufficed. Recidivism rates
continue to climb because once out of jail the ex convicts have nothing to do once they
are set free. They spend just spent time isolated from society, not progressing or gaining
new knowledge. If they are juveniles not only do these inmates have a criminal record,
making it harder for them to get into jobs, but they also have not gotten a full education.
They are lagging behind others their age because they have missed school or dropped out,
as well as missing other experiences their peers were exposed to. This severely limits job
choices and forces many convicted minors back into whatever got them into prison in the
first place. The majority of arrests among minors are made for larceny-theft ("Juvenile
Justice"). The need for survival overrides the fear of being sent back to prison. Which is
why juveniles need to be educated and given new opportunities even when incarcerated.
Many argue that whoever has committed a crime is in jail and does not deserve an
education. While it is true that those in jail do not deserve better treatment than those not
in jail it does not mean that they do not deserve a second chance at life. Unless a prisoner
has gotten a life sentence the inmate will be reentering society and needs to be properly
equipped. Every person in America is entitled to a high school education and prisoners
should be treated no differently. The purpose of prison may be to punish but it is also to
make sure prisoners do not return and education is the easiest and most effective solution.
This will also save American taxpayers money. Over 70 billion dollars a year are spent on

the correction system in the state, federal, and local governments (Schmitt, Gupta, and
Warner). This money could be saved and put to better use by reducing the number of
prisoners in prisons, which would decline sharply along with recidivism rates.
Along with reducing recidivism rates, education in prisons will help to close the
achievement gap. Wealthier communities have more access to good education and
education in prison is a step towards equal and quality education in every community.
This does not mean that in order for a person in a poor community to get an education
they must end up in jail. Education in juvenile prison is just one step towards good
education for all. The quality of education is far worse in areas with high poverty and
among minorities, which is where many criminals get arrested. A greater percentage of
minorities live in poverty than whites so high poverty areas also tend to be more
minorities ("Children Living in Poverty"). Over half of criminals arrested are black and
Hispanic while they only make up a quarter of the total population ("Criminal Justice
Fact Sheet"). An easy way to start to bridge the gap is in prison. If juvenile minorities in
prison are able to turn their lives around instead of ending up back in jail it could have a
profound effect on the lives of all minorities. Right now there is a distinct gap between
minorities and whites in many aspects of life including, higher education, high paying
jobs, and high socioeconomic status ("Ethnic and Racial Minorities"). The root of these
causes starts with education. The average minority student scores lower than white
students in all areas of school (Vanneman et al.). This is not because whites are smarter
but because they are offered more opportunities. When juveniles do not get a good
education and they lack behind in other aspects of life. If inmate were educated well in

jail after their first offense, so that they never went back to jail, it would allow the person
to lead a better life and pass that on in their community and to their children.
Once minorities are given educational opportunities in jail the programs will lead
to a decline in poverty because those breaking the law are usually poor or have earned
money illegally. If juvenile prisoners are educated in prison they will have access to
many new opportunities and higher paying jobs. The horrible situation of prison can be
used in a productive way to better lives and reduce poverty. People in poverty have lower
graduation rates and college attendance (Rumberger). If someone in poverty ends up in
jail that could be their chance to turn their life around. This doesnt mean that in order to
get a good education a person should end up in jail but imprisonment is a good
opportunity to educate youth. The more educated a person is the more likely they will be
successful. If those who are most in need and most at risk receive a good education not
only will they have many more opportunities open to them, they will be able to pass these
opportunities on to their children.
Some may argue that jail is not the place to give new opportunities, and
that these options should be given to law abiding citizens. It is true that good education
opportunities should be given to law abiding citizen that need it, but one does not cancel
out the other. Opportunities for education should be given to everyone equally and a
person being imprisoned does not change that. The argument has been made that if
people are in jail they threw away their chance to have a good education and future. The
criminal committed the crime and the criminal must deal with the consequences. This
type of thinking is why the US has such high poverty rates and crime rates. Just because a
person goes to jail does not mean they do not get any more opportunities. In fact, if they

dont get help or assistance, most likely that person will end up back in jail or poor
because they do not have the education necessary to get a stable job. If poverty in
America is going to decrease the people who are poor must be helped. If impoverished
populations are able to succeed they can pass their success onto their children. More
successful parents have successful children and with the education and success of current
poor populations, future generations will have much less poverty ("Parental Education").
Prisons hold many impoverished people and by educating them, in addition to educating
other poor people, poverty in America will begin to shrink.
Education in juvenile prison would have a huge effect on recidivism rates, the
achievement gap, and poverty levels if implemented correctly. Education can transform a
place and quality education in leading countries is part of what allows them success.
Education is shaping new generations and the more educated people are the more the
United States will progress. Only 40% of the country goes on to higher education after
high school (Calvert) and 11% of juveniles do not even graduate high school ("Fast
Facts"). Implementing a good education system in juvenile prisons will encourage the
juvenile criminals to continue their education through high school and onto college. If
that is not an option then a GED or high school diploma will significantly open job
opportunities. The percentage of jobs open to those without a high school diploma is 26
percent and those jobs are low paying and unsustainable. The percentage open to those
with a diploma is 40 percent and the wages are significantly higher (U.S. Bureau of
Labor). A person with a high school degree will make, on average, 15,000 more a year
than someone without a degree. This will give ex convicts access to many new

professions and also turn American jobs more intellectual. Education in prisons will not
only benefit individuals but also America as a whole.