Prison inmates shouldn’t receive free college education
By Kara Henson
Round Table Editor-in-Chief
Should inmates receive a free college education?
With the crime rate steadily increasing in the United States, law makers are forced to put more and more citizens behind bars. FBI data from last fall show violent crimes, including murders and robberies, rose by 3.7% nationwide during the first six months of 2006.
Those findings came on top of a 2.2% crime hike in 2005 — the first increase since 2001. Although their crimes vary, each inmate is in prison for one main purpose; they have committed a felony and prison is where they can go as punishment.
Although it is in fact “prison,” the treatment they receive is nothing short of easy. With free meals, free exercise equipment, free religious services, free counseling, and free college education, prison seems ideal.
Some argue that privileges offered in county prisons are too abundant and defeat the purpose of serving one’s actual sentence, while members of the opposite belief say that these offerings are needed to keep the inmates sane.
“Education does change minds, teaches people how to think better, [and] how to find alternatives to the way they used to do things,” said Stephen Steurer, executive director of the Correctional Education Association.
The main argument erupting in the minds of American citizens today, however, is: should inmates receive a free college education? The opinion can go either way.
For some, they feel free college education is a privilege taken way too lightly by the inmates who are receiving it. Hard-working American citizens fight everyday to be their best, striving to succeed as far as they can. Why is it fair that inmates, citizens who have committed crimes, are able to receive a college education for free?
College is not cheap, and hard-working Americans know this. The average tuition at four-year public colleges rose 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall, according to the College Board’s annual “Trends in College Pricing” report. At private colleges, the average list price for a year of coursework rose 4.4 percent to $26,273.
According to recently released reports from the College Board, most students and their families can expect to pay, on average, from $172 to $1,096 more than last year for this year’s tuition and fees, depending on the type of college. One can’t simply go to college because they want to; they must earn their admission.
Inmates who have caused their families and communities harm are being given an education that they most likely take for granted. If one is in prison, chances that they are aiming to better their education while serving their time are slim.
If a murderer is convicted, does society really believe that their first thought when they arrive at their vacant jail cell will be “when does school start?” No. Counseling and help is what they really need.
If somebody is creating chaos and destruction, an education should not be their first priority to making things “better.” Those who have chosen to commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms.
Providing inmates with a college education also means that tax payer money is going to said programs. Why should innocent, law-abiding citizens be forced to pay for those who have done wrong?
The professors and instructors employed at prisons are taking time out of their schedules to provide for those who have done wrong. These people are taking a risk and could be caught in serious danger if the “students” are not watched carefully.
The information and knowledge that they gain could also be used negatively. If one is in prison because of a crime that involved deep knowledge and planning, providing them with an education may only better their success rate if they choose to again commit a crime.
Another topic of concern; why should death row inmates or felons who have received a life sentence be given free education? Death row inmates can take some classes, although they are not allowed to leave their cells.
A teacher delivers instruction to the prisoner through the bars. They will not be able to use the knowledge they gain because they will always be in jail. So what’s the point?
Many continue to ask; should repeat offenders still receive a free college education? Obviously they have been given a second chance to better their lives and make things right again, but they still continue to make mistakes. Why do these felons deserve this right, when law-abiding citizens still must pay the fee for higher education?
From the other end of the spectrum, however, many will argue that education in prison is what inmates need to keep them sane and alive. Providing them with an education will offer the knowledge that they can have a successful life after prison.
Some believe that what inmates are taught in jail should be based on a personal level and that the curriculum should focus on individual effort.
On March 14, 2006, a group of educators began their work at a local prison in Worcester, Mass. The experience they gained not only gave them a great sense of self accomplishment, but allowed them to learn along with their students.
They know how to translate educere, which in this context means “enlightenment” or “to enlighten,” into a meaningful practice and thus transform education into practical knowledge, the kind that leads not only to a better job but also to a more meaningful and creative life.
”It’s rejuvenating,” said Antonio Rivera, 23, of the Cheshire Correctional Institution, who is less than halfway through a 12-year sentence for drug dealing.
Another example of schooling in prisons occurs in Hagerstown, Maryland. The prisoners, who are held at the Maryland Correctional Training Center, a medium-security facility, recently earned their Master of Theology Studies degrees through the Prison-to-Pulpit program from Covenant Theological Seminary of Tallahassee, FL, a training school that has a Maryland branch.
Personally, I believe inmates should not receive free college education while incarcerated. They have obviously committed a crime or a series of crimes, and need to be punished for their actions.
While some argue that serving “hard time” is enough punishment, I believe that, as a prisoner, they have lost every right as a free man.
If the education they were receiving was not at a collegiate level and had volunteers providing the material, it would be different. But for them to receive free college education is ridiculous.
Students work hard to gain a college education, and it is not fair that one receives it for free, especially if they do not truly want it or appreciate it. People today argue about the temptations that society must face and overcome. In these hard times, it is tough to be a well-rounded individual.
Obviously, there is no excuse for committing a crime, but there has to be somebody to blame. I truly do not understand why these criminals are given the education that hard-working men and women must compete for.
The issue of inmates receiving free college education is a touchy subject that has obviously stirred controversy. American citizens are free to believe what they feel and, as a strong-minded country, it would be difficult to change their opinions
Whether you are for or against inmates receiving free college education while incarcerated, one is entitled to their own opinion. In the words of Voltaire: “I may not agree with the words you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”