Restorative Justice Through Education

Edwin Gramajo, Opinions Editor

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Currently, about 2.3 million people are being held in the U.S criminal justice system. Many of these people will eventually be released therefore it would be better for society to educate them academically as much as possible. NEIU has been doing its part.

In May, seven students incarcerated in Stateville Correctional Center graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in University Without Walls. Stateville Prison is a maximum-security prison located in Crest Hill Illinois.

In 2017, Tim Barnett and Erica Meiners founded this program with the assistance of Prison+Neighborhood Arts Project.

“Having taught through Prison and Neighborhood Arts Projects (P+NAP) for several years, Erica Meiners and I realized that some of the students had accomplished so much through their prison and pre-prison educations.” This made them perfect UWW students.

NEIU has an alternative degree program named University Without Walls (UWW). UWW allows students to use professional work experience towards earning a degree.

Crime impacts people on both sides negatively, victims and offenders. Former prisoners have a difficult time when they are released back into society because of negative labels. Negative labels such as “ex-convict” cause people to go into a never-ending cycle of going in and out of prison.

Having a degree is seen by many as a sign of success. This can help former prisoners get a job when they get out.

Many people form a great part of their identity by how other people classify them. This is commonly known as stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell someone that they are smart they will embrace it and act in accordance with this label.

As a result, these seven men can use this great accomplishment to inspire others to do the same.
Incarcerated men and women should not be forgotten about. Education should not be kept away from any American. Prison disconnects people from the real world. As a result, they miss out on technological advances.

Education exposes people to new worlds. Education gives men and women new tools. It does not matter where you are. Programs like this help incarcerated people keep up with technological advances.

The primary purpose of the prison system is to punish. However, in my opinion, the time spent in prison should be used to better people.

Education in prison reduces recidivism. Recidivism is the propensity of a convicted criminal to recommit crimes after being released.

According to Dennis J Stevens and Charles S Ward, “results show that inmates who earned associate and bachelor degrees while incarcerated tend to become law-abiding individuals significantly more often after their release from prison than inmates who had not advanced their education while incarcerated.”

This will save taxpayers money, lower crime and change lives for the better.

For more information about this program visit: prisonstudiesproject.org

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