Education serves as a critical intervention strategy to empower incarcerated people to interrupt the devastating intergenerational cycles of unemployment, poverty, family violence, mental illness, drug addiction, and crime. Through our on-site education programs at San Quentin State Prison, we have learned directly from students how participation in our College Preparatory and AA Degree programs improves mental health, strengthens economic prospects and significantly reduces one’s likelihood of being involved in crime and violence in the future.
The Prison University Project is committed to rigorous, data-driven evaluation, as a means to ensure that our own work is effective, and to demonstrate the powerful impacts of prison higher education. At this time, we are preparing to launch a multi-year study to measure a full range of outcomes, including educational and professional outcomes, civic engagement, mental and physical health, family relationships and social-psychological mechanisms. The purpose of this study is to explain the effects of prison higher education on students both pre-and post-release, and expand our knowledge about exactly how education impacts the lives of incarcerated people.
We have recently conducted a Demographic and Educational Experience Survey, to gather information on students’ backgrounds and educational experience. This survey will allow us to better understand students’ individual life experiences, with particular attention to their relationship to education.