Assessing the effects of higher education in prison

In contrast to the damage done by imprisonment, higher education provides individuals with path to advancement. According to a recent estimate, the economic returns to a college degree exceed 15 percent and, over a lifetime, average earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree are roughly $570,000 higher than for those with only a high school education. In partnership with the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison, we examine whether and how participation in prison-based higher education can significantly alter a broad set of outcomes related to skill acquisition, mental health, potential economic mobility, civic engagement, educational attainment, and criminal justice involvement. Using both original, longitudinal surveys and administrative data, the project will allow us to assess whether higher education has the potential to alter not only the experiences these individuals have while incarcerated, but also their life trajectories following release.

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