TABLE 2-7 Educational Attainment for Correctional Populations and the General Population, 1997

 

 

Prison Inmates

 

 

 

Education

Total Incarcerated

State

Federal

Local Jail

Probation

General Population

≤ Some high school (%)

41.3

39.7

26.5

46.5

30.6

18.4

GED (5)

23.4

28.5

22.7

14.1

11.0

NA

High school diploma (%)

22.6

20.5

27.0

25.9

34.8

33.2

Postsecondary (%)

12.7

11/4

23/9

13.9

23.6

48.4

NOTE: GED, general equivalency diploma; NA, not available; Gen. Pop., general population.

SOURCE: BJS, 2003b.

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 ended access to federal Pell Grants for undergraduate education to all prisoners. At least 25 states cut back on vocational and technical training programs since the Pell Grants were cut. In 1990, there were 350 higher education programs for inmates; by 1997, only 8.

Eight in 10 state prisons offer basic education and high school courses (BJS, 2003b). Fewer than one in three offer college classes. College, vocational, and high school courses are most common in federal prisons and least common in private prisons. For example, college courses are offered by 80 percent of federal prisons and 27 percent of private prisons. However, less than 20 percent of prisoners participated in college courses while incarcerated; this percentage dropped between 1991 and 1997 (Table 2-8). Vocational courses are more popular, taken by about one in three inmates in state and federal prisons.


Age of inmates The U.S. prison population is aging (BJS, 2004d). By year end 2003, 28 percent of all inmates were ages 40 to 54 (up from 22 percent in 1995). Inmates age 55 and older have experienced the largest percent change—an increase of 85 percent since 1995. However, they are still a small group, relative to inmates in other age groups, accounting for 4.3 percent of all inmates in 2003, up from 3.0 percent in 1995 (BJS, 2004d; TSP, 2005). According to the Sentencing Project, California’s three-strikes law contributed to a rapid aging of the California prison population in the



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