Characteristics of Inmates - Education Of Prison And Jail Inmates
school population college educational
Early in 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a special report, Education and Correctional Populations, on the educational attainment of prison and jail inmates. Data on prisoners are for the benchmark years of 1991 and 1997. The study utilized surveys of inmates in correctional facilities for those two years, surveys of local jail inmates conducted in 1989 and 1996, Current Population Survey data for 1997, and data from the 1992 Adult Literacy Survey sponsored by the National Center of Educational Statistics. Although the data are somewhat dated, this study is the most recent to take a comprehensive consideration of the education of inmates. Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2004), provides some updated statistics on the educational levels of jail inmates in 2002.
In 1997, 11.4% of state prisoners had "postsecondary/some college" education or were "college graduates or more." Federal prisoners in the same categories represented 23.9% of the federal prison population. In contrast, 48.4% of the general population had postsecondary education or a college degree or higher. Prisoners with less than a high school education comprised 39.7% of the state prison population and 26.5% of the federal prison population in 1997—compared to only 18.4% of the general population that had attained less than a high school education.
In 1997, 33.2% of the general population had achieved a high school diploma as their highest level of education. By contrast, only 20.5% of the state prison population and 27% of the federal prison population were high school graduates. More than a fifth of the prison population had a General Education Development (GED) certificate—28.5% in state prisons, 22.7% in federal prisons. No comparable data for the general population were available. Concerning those in the state prisons without a high school education, Education and Correctional Population presented the following summary:
The groups of state prison inmates who had not completed high school or the GED included:
40% of males and 42% of females
27% of whites, 44% of African-Americans, and 53% of Hispanics
52% of inmates 24 or younger and 35% of inmates 45 or older
61% of noncitizens and 38% of U.S. citizens
59% with a speech disability, 66% with a learning disability, and 37% without a reported disability
47% of drug offenders
12% of those with military service and 44% with no military service.
According to Doris J. James of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002, jail inmates in 2002 with less than a high school education include 31.6% with "some high school" and 12.3% with eighth grade or less, for a total of 43.9% of all inmates. Forty-three percent of jail inmates had attained either a high school diploma or GED as their highest level of education. Thirteen percent of jail inmates had either "some college" or had graduated from college. (See Table 5.5.)
Women and Men
Among state prison inmates in 1997, 41.8% of women had an educational attainment of less than high school compared with 39.6% for men ("eighth grade or less" and "some high school"). Nearly 22% of women had only a high school diploma, 20.4% of men. However, if GED-certified prisoners are combined with high school graduates, men in these categories represented 49.3% of the prison population, women 43.9%. Proportionately more women had an educational attainment exceeding the high school level: 14.3% had postsecondary education, some college, or were college graduates; 11.1% of males fell into these categories. A slightly smaller percentage of women participated in educational programs offered in state prisons than men, 50.1% versus the male participation rate of 52%.
Education by Race and Ethnicity
A breakdown of the state prison population by race and ethnicity shows that 27.2% of whites, 44.1% of African-Americans, and 53% of Hispanics had less than a high school education in 1997—all significantly higher than the same group in the general population (18.4%). For 58% of the white prison population, a high school diploma or GED was their highest educational attainment while 14.9% had at least some college education. Among African American prisoners 45.8% had a high school diploma or GED as their highest educational attainment and 10% had at least some college. Among Hispanics, 39.6% had a high school diploma or GED but no further education and 7.4% had at least some college education.
Most prisons offer some kind of educational programs to inmates including basic adult education, secondary education, college courses, special education, vocational training, and study release programs. According to State of the Bureau 2003: Accomplishments and Goals (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2004), in September 2003 there were 21,000 federal prisoners enrolled in GED programs. During 2003, 5,313 inmates graduated from the program and received GEDs. In addition, the Bureau of Prisons also operated or supported 325 occupational training programs, 514 apprenticeship programs, and 158 advanced occupational training programs. Some 10,000 federal prisoners were enrolled in these educational programs during 2003. The Bureau estimated that during 2003 some 35% of all federal prisoners were enrolled in one or another of the available educational programs.
|Percent of jail inmates, 2002|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||1.3||1.2||1.4||1.6||2.4|
|More than one raced||3.0||2.6||3.3||3.6||—|
|17 or younger||1.8%||1.2%||2.9%||1.6%||2.3%|
|55 or older||2.2||2.2||2.8||1.0||1.5|
|8th grade or less||12.3%||11.8%||14.3%||10.6%||13.1%|
|Some high school||31.6||30.6||32.7||33.4||33.4|
|General equivalency diploma||17.1||18.2||14.1||18.6||14.1|
|High school diploma||25.9||26.1||26.2||24.6||25.9|
|College graduate or more||2.9||2.8||2.9||3.1||3.2|
|Number of jail inmatese||631,241||394,039||182,754||100,495||507,026|
|aIncludes inmates with a prior conviction, but no new conviction for the current charge.|
|bExcludes 0.3% of inmates in 1996 and 2002 who did not specify a race.|
|dIncludes 1.6% of jail inmates who specified black and other races; 1.3%, American Indian/Alaskan Native and other races; and 0.1%, Asian and other races.|
|eThe survey totals were weighted to midyear estimates from the Annual Survey of Jails in 1995 and 2001.|