Guide to Help Prison Officials Create College-Level Educational Programs Created by RAND Corporation

For Release

June 29, 2021

A guide to help prison officials create high-quality college educational programs for inmates has been created by the nonprofit RAND Corporation.

The toolkit—available online for free—is intended as a starting point for corrections officials who are considering whether to have a college program within their prison system or who may seek additional information to ensure the success of an existing program. The guide is relevant for both two-year and four-year college programs.

The guide, “What Corrections Officials Need to Know to Partner with Colleges to Implement College Programs in Prisons,” is available at

“College educational programs not only can improve the lives of those in prison and conditions in prison, but also help individuals compete for jobs in their communities when they are released,” said Lois Davis, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND.

In 2019, 1.4 million adults were incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and each year more than 700,000 leave prisons and return to local communities. Prisons are supposed to rehabilitate those being incarcerated, with education being a primary way to prepare people to live productive lives upon release.

Past RAND research has demonstrated the value of correctional education programs. Incarcerated adults who participate in a correctional education program while in prison—whether college-level instruction or another type of program—had a 13-percentage point reduction in their risk of recidivating after release. RAND researchers estimated that for every $1 invested in prison education programs, taxpayers save an average of $4 to $5 in three-year reincarceration costs.

Creation of the guide was supported by the Michelson 20MM Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that supports innovation in education and higher learning initiatives.

The RAND Justice Policy Program conducts research across the criminal and civil justice system on issues such as public safety, effective policing, drug policy and enforcement, corrections policy, court reform, and insurance regulation.

The RAND Education and Labor division conducts rigorous, objective research to help decisionmakers and practitioners find solutions to education and labor market challenges.

About RAND

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