Incarceration to Reentry: Education & Training Pathways in Indiana

This brief examines how Indiana is aligning education and training opportunities for people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. This is the second brief in our series “Reconnecting Justice in the States,” which explores coordinated justice, education, and workforce policy and practice at the state level. It is part of CLASP’s continued commitment to leverage criminal justice reform to expand economic opportunity and help achieve racial equity.

Among those who are incarcerated in Indiana, just 62 percent have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and 29 percent are marginally illiterate. These numbers alone correlate to higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and economic immobility, and adding a criminal conviction further exacerbates these disparities. Across different levels of educational need, Indiana is continuously assessing its prison education programs in order to improve outcomes. Presently, only 9 percent of inmates have a college degree. The loss of state financial aid for inmates and shrinking prison-college partnerships has diminished postsecondary opportunities. However, the initial success of the state’s Second Chance Pell sites may help reignite momentum for state investment in postsecondary education.

Research has proven that access to correctional education and training can boost post-release employability, reduce recidivism, and (by extension) improve stability and mobility for the families and communities most affected. By shifting state investments, collaborating across agencies, leveraging federal resources, and using evidence to inform decision making, the state has been able to move the needle on some of these metrics. Still, work remains to close gaps by race and income levels as well as dismantle pipelines to prison.

Leveraging the power of federal, state, and local policies and investments is essential for systemic reform. In a time of federal cuts, uncertain state political and budget climates, and changing postsecondary and workforce trends, it is essential that people involved in the criminal justice system are part of the economic success conversation. Indiana’s investment and alignment across education, workforce, and justice systems is coordinated efforts to do just that.

To learn more, read this brief by Duy Pham and Wayne Taliaferro.