Sheriff Works to Educate Prisoners For a Better Life

Posted: May 9, 2011 in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is responsible for the country’s most occupied/populated county jail. The recidivism rates in California are the highest in the country with the ratio of two out of three prisoners returning to prison. He has personally decided to create a local movement of Education-Based incarceration in hopes to lower recidivism rates within the state. Intellectual growth and competence is the main focus of Baca’s Education-Based incarceration, mostly because a large portion of prisoners are high school drop outs and without an education they can never become better prepared for life outside of prison.

Baca joked that prisoners are the “perfect” students because of their perfect attendance. However, he is confident that all the prisoners that take education courses while in prison become “model” criminals. They are able to take their new-found education and challenge themselves to learn and become more academically knowledgeable. This, in turn, causes the inmates (who are students) to asses their own lives and become less violent and a better prisoner in hopes to (1) get a shorter sentence along with a quicker parole and (2) attain an actual career and stable lifestyle after leaving the prison.

The Education-Based incarceration is still in the beginning stages and must show that a stronger education program actually does lower recidivism rates before it can be adapted by more prison systems. Baca believes that one should “incarcerate a body but not a brain” most prisoners will reenter society again and they need to be prepared to live and prosper in the United States. The employment rates are extremely high and jobs are very competitive now; people are losing out on opportunities because most jobs want at least a high school educated employee if not a college educated one. Without education in the prison system, inmates can never become fully prepared to leave prison.

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