Education: the Most Powerful Weapon

Last Updated by Nancy Rogan on

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela

Though, for some individuals, one small change to the quote may have more personal impact, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change YOUR world.” 

  • Nearly 80 percent of individuals in prison do not have a high school diploma
  • About one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention. 
  • The average cost of incarceration for youth in Virginia is $326 per day/$118,990 per year. Source: Calculating The Full Price Tag For Youth Incarceration Policy Institute, December 2014

As unfortunate as it is, many youth who do not complete school will end up incarcerated.  Now there are new statistics to consider.  A high percentage of individuals released from prison return.

An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A new program is working to change that by helping prisoners redefine themselves as students through the Prison to College Pipeline.  Program founder, Baz Dreisinger explains the concept: “We have this idea that, possibly, in the three to five years prior to release, we want to seize on the high expectations, the high hopes, the anticipations of coming home, take advantage of that hope and turn it to education.”

The program gives prisoners the opportunity to develop new identities as students.  One student, though challenged by the program, reports, “It gives you a self-worth that is unspeakable.”

While prisoners are able to take correspondence courses to receive a high school diploma, there are not always options for further study. Though education alone may not be the panacea for successful re-integration as many individuals need other support systems; studies have shown that “prisoners who participate in correctional post-secondary education programs are 51 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated.”

Watch the full PBS NewsHour episode here. 

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