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Atlanta, GA 30303

Statistics on Incarceration

  • Over 2.1 million people are incarcerated in the United States

  • The number of women in prison increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to 112,797

  • Including women in local jails, more than 205,000 women are now incarcerated

  • The number of women in prison increased at nearly 1.5 times the rate of men (646% versus 419%).

  • Over 56,000 people are incarcerated in Georgia

  • In 2012 - 3,904 females were incarcerated in Georgia

  • Women represent 9% of the overall prison population in Georgia however, women are the fastest growing population

  • Pathways to crime for female offenders include a long history of sexual and/or physical abuse, unhealthy relationships, and substance abuse

  • Approximately 50% have been physically abused. Approximately 45% have a history of sexual abuse. Drugs were involved in 75% of the female convictions.​

Why Higher Education?

  •  Evidence based studies show that education reduces recidivism (turning to prison within 3 years of release) and helps returning citizens become productive

  • In fact, the more education a person receives while incarcerated the less likely they are to return:

  • A GED yields a 29% reduction in recidivism

  • Higher Education classes yield an average of 45% reduction in recidivism with programs claiming a 0% recidivism rate among their graduates.

  • It is cost effective—Studies show that for every $1 spent on carceral education the state saves $600 in future incarceration cost

Brief History US Prisons of Higher Education Programs in Prison

  • 1821 Eastern State Penitentiary is authorized. The form of punishment that becomes known as the Eastern State Penitentiary system follows the penal reforms advocated by Quakers such as solitary confinement and religious instruction.

  • 1820s Education in prisons begins. Ministers and chaplains are primarily responsible for educational efforts, largely religious in nature. They believe education to be necessary in pursuing the path to spiritual salvation.

  • 1820s The Auburn System of Punishment emerges. This form of punishment, which emerges at a penitentiary in Auburn, New York, favors silent cooperative work during the day and eventually wins out over the Eastern State Penitentiary system as the favored model.

  • 1840s Eliza Farnham, matron of Mt. Pleasant Female Prison in New York, sparks controversy by distributing books of “licentious and demoralizing character,” i.e., novels.

  • 1865 The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery, “except as a punishment for crime …”

  • 1870 The First National Congress of Prison Professionals adopts a “Declaration of Principles” repudiating “rigid discipline and hard labor” and favoring “moral regeneration” of (implicitly white male) prisoners through “religion, letters, and industry.”

  • During Reconstruction southern states create a peonage system where blacks are placed in prison for minor crimes and leased to factories and farms.

  • 1931 Austin MacCormick publishes the landmark Education of Adult Prisoners, which argues that educational opportunities help prisoners “fit into the social scheme understandingly and willingly.” He advocates liberal arts education to this end.

  • 1954 The American Prison Association changes its name to the American Correctional Association and encourages its members to designate their prisons as “correctional institutions.”

  • 1955 The United Nations passes the “Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” which emphasize rehabilitation.

  • 1950s-1970s “Biblio-therapy,” a form of treatment “using literature as a catalyst to promote … normal development, or rehabilitation,” becomes popular within penal circles.

  • 1965 Congress passes Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which authorizes federal tax supported grants that could cover the cost of college-level studies. This legislation makes possible the Pell Grant Program.

  • 1967 The U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity begins funding exemplary postsecondary education programs in prisons. Many of the programs funded through what becomes known as Project New Gate encourage a relative autonomy from the prison administrative apparatus.

  • 1971 Congress authorizes block grants for prisons and jails to develop libraries “to help prisoners prepare themselves for reentry and for positive use of … leisure time.”

  • 1972 the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant Program, later renamed the Pell Grant Program, is established. This program provides federal dollars to help low income undergraduates finance their postsecondary education. These grants are made available to prisoners, which allow tremendous growth in academic programs in prisons.

  • 1980 The total prison population reaches 500,000.

  • 1982 350 post-secondary educational programs exist inside prisons in the U.S.

  • 1982 President Ronald Reagan declares a War on Drugs, which causes an exponential rise in the prison population. A number of congressional acts increase the severity of punishment for the sale and possession of drugs, establish “truth in sentencing” guidelines, and so on …

  • 1990 The total prison population reaches 715,000.

  • 1993 prisoners in 43 states can obtain associate’s degrees, prisoners in 31 states can earn Baccalaureate degrees, and prisoners in nine states can earn master’s degrees.

  • 1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act: Increases federal funding for policing and prison building, provides financial incentives for states to reduce eligibility for parole, approves three strikes legislation

  • 1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act eliminates Pell Grants for prisoners, leading to devastating cuts in higher education. All but 8 of the 350 existing college programs are closed due to inadequate funding. Today, less than a fourth of state prisons offer college courses.

  • 2000 The total prison population reaches 1.3 million.

  • 2010 The total prison population reaches 2.3 million.