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Frank Lucas

Representative of District 3 in Oklahoma


Canadian County Office
10952 NW Expressway Suite B
Yukon, OK 73099
Dear Mr. Lucas,
My name is Nikki West; I am a sophomore at Northern Oklahoma College- Stillwater and I am
from Cleveland, Oklahoma. I agree with everyone being able to have the option for a college
education, but when it comes to the price I disagree. I am a full time college student who is
having to take out student loans to get by. Why is it that someone who has committed a crime(s)
has the option for the same education, but for free? When someone is in jail/prison, there are
many things to consider from a public’s eye. I ran a few polls on my Facebook and Twitter
account, seeing who all agreed with a free education for the incarcerated. On Facebook I
received 32 votes with 19 percent agreeing that prisoners should receive a free college education,
while 81 percent disagreed with it being free. On Twitter I ran the same questions with a total of
14 votes. 36 percent agreed to a free education, and 64 percent disagreed. I know the numbers
are not huge, but they do show the opinions of others. A free college education for incarcerated
men and women is one of them. What will be the recidivism rate, the cost of incarceration, and is
it really beneficial?
Once an individual has graduated from a four-year institute in Oklahoma, “their average debt is
37,172 dollars” (Hess). Why is it that everyone’s tax paying dollars are giving someone who is
incarcerated a college education for free? Why give a FREE education to someone who we do
not know if they are even going to use it? “On average 67.8% of men and women who are
released from jail or prison are rearrested within three years” (National Institute of Justice). Tax
payers are paying for someone else’s education for them to potentially commit a crime again.
That is money, time, and effort wasted on someone who did not deserve it. When being released
back into society after being locked up, they have to learn how to be a part of society again. This
can be very hard when an individual does not know where to start and some people could
commit a crime to go back to prison because they know there is always somewhere to sleep and
food to eat. Another study was conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy that
showed 7 out of every 10 individuals released will be rearrested within 36 months. “641,100 men
and women were released back into their communities in 2015” (NRRC Facts & Trends). Using
the studies mentioned above, about 435,948 people will go back to jail or prison within three
years. With such a high recidivism rate why waste college education? When someone has their
GED it can land someone a job most of the time. Once someone has a job and if they eventually
want to peruse a college education, they can do it the right way, which leads me to the cost of
incarceration.
With the incarceration rate rising, the cost of housing prisoners will only rise. “For the fiscal year
of 2017, the cost to house an inmate was $36,299.25” (Hyle). Each state is different when it
comes to how much each individual pays in to the state and for Oklahoma at the end of the
“2010 fiscal year the total amount paid in by tax payers was $453,365 dollars” (Henrichson and
Delaney pg. 8). That is a very large amount of money, and people are wanting to give someone
incarcerated a college education? When someone is arrested it is because they were doing
something they should not have been doing. Why would we reward someone by giving them an
education, when they should be accepting the trouble they got THEMSELVES into? Spending
another $37,000 on prisoners with no guarantee they even use the knowledge when released?
Prisons have bills to pay just like everyone else, such as paying employees, electric, food, and
more. After all bills were paid in “2017 the total prison cost came out to about 182 billion
dollars” (Equal Justice Initiative). Everyone should have to opportunity to receive higher
education. If we do pay for someone’s college education will they benefit from it once rejoined
into society?
When someone goes to college it is often to better themselves in the long run and it is a copious
amount of time, effort, and money. When someone is incarcerated they are offered an education
whether it be a high school or college education. The Obama Administration allowed for a
“Second Chance Pell Pilot” (SCPP) program in 2015 (Bender). The SCPP is a program that
allows for qualifying incarcerated men and women to receive college level courses. The
allowance for taking college courses shows how hard work could pay off and eventually change
someone’s life for the better. When someone has a college degree it makes finding a job in this
competitive market just a little easier compared to others who do not have a degree. When an
“individual has participated in an educational program they are 43 percent less likely to return to
prison according to the RAND Corporation” (Bender). Some people need a nudge to know that
everything will work out, not only while incarcerated but once they are released. Once someone
has a job they love, I do not think they will have time to go back to old habits and get into
trouble. It can take time for someone to realize that is not the life they want to live, and it takes
them to change that.
After all things considered, recidivism rates, the rising cost of incarceration, and if an education
will even benefit others, everyone will still hold their opinion. Once someone wants to change
their life and stop living and doing the things they are to get into trouble, everything changes.
With the recidivism rate so high, it is hard to picture handing out college education to criminals.
With incarceration increasing the cost will rise and take more money out of tax payer’s pockets.
No one will ever know if one individual will actually put a college education to good use
knowing their past. I do not disagree with declining someone the opportunity to receive a college
education, or any education for that matter. With 18-22-year-old students having to take out
student loans to receive the same education, is not fair. It shows society that if someone goes to
prison, they do not have to pay for their education, we do. If that is the truth, then count me in!
Men and women who have been incarcerated should have to pay back what it cost to go to
school just like everyone else. After getting back on their feet and getting a stable job, they can
begin making monthly payments. “Nothing is free in life” is something everyone has heard a
time or two, but is that really true for a prisoner?
Sincerely yours,
Nikki West
617 S. Knoblock St Apartment C
Stillwater, Oklahoma 74074
30th, March 2019
Works Cited
Bender, Kathleen. “Education Opportunities in Prison Are Key to Reducing Crime.” Center for

American Progress, 30 Nov. 2018, www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-

12/news/2018/03/02/447321/education-opportunities-prison-key-reducing-crime/.

Henrichson, Christian, and Ruth Delaney. “The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs

Taxpayers.” Federal Sentencing Reporter, vol. 25, no. 1, 20 July 2012, pp. 68–80.,

doi:10.1525/fsr.2012.25.1.68.

Hess, Abigail. “Here's How Much the Average Student Loan Borrower Owes When They

Graduate.” CNBC, CNBC, 15 Feb. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/heres-how-much-the-

average-student-loan-borrower-owes-when-they-graduate.html.

Hyle, Ken. “Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration.” Federal Register, 30 Apr.

2018, www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09062/annual-determination-of-

average-cost-of-incarceration.

“Mass Incarceration Costs $182 Billion Every Year.” Equal Justice Initiative, Eji, 6 Feb. 2017,

eji.org/news/mass-incarceration-costs-182-billion-annually.

“NRRC Facts & Trends.” CSG Justice Center, The National Reentry Center,

csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/facts-and-trends/.

“Recidivism.” National Institute of Justice, 17 June 2014,

www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/pages/welcome.aspx.

“Why Prison Education?” Prison Studies Project, prisonstudiesproject.org/why-prison-education-

programs/.
Nikki West

Comp II

Diana Watkins

30th March, 2019

Is Prison Education Just?

I. Introduction
A. My name is Nikki West; I am a sophomore at Northern Oklahoma College- Stillwater. I

am from Cleveland, Oklahoma.


B. I am all for anyone to seek a college education to better themselves. The only problem I

have with incarcerated men and women receiving a college education is that it is free to

them. I have to take out student loans and my parents as well to pay for college. Why is it

that someone whom committed a crime(s) does not have to pay? I think they should have

to do the same as anyone else and eventually pay it all back.


C. Thesis- When someone is in prison there are many things to consider from a public’s

eye when it includes giving someone a college education. What will be the recidivism

rate, the cost of incarceration, and will it really be beneficial?


II. Body
A. Main Idea 1- Recidivism Rate
1. Sub-point 1- The average cost to go to a four-year institute in Oklahoma is around

thirty thousand dollars of debt to an individual. Why are my and a million others

tax paying dollars going to giving someone incarcerated a college education,

when I will be in debt once I graduate?


a. Evidence- 67.8% of men and women are rearrested within 3 years of being

released from prison. (National Institute)


b. Follow-up- What is the point in giving someone a free education when they

are not going to use it? Tax payers are paying for someone else’s education for

them to just commit another crime and maybe not even care about an

education.
2. Sub-point 2- When someone is released back into society after being in prison,

they have to learn how to become a part of society again. This can be hard when

someone does not know where to start. Some people could even commit a crime

again due to knowing they will have somewhere to sleep every night, and have

three meals a day if they are arrested again.


a. Evidence- A study conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy

shows that every 7 out of 10 prisoners released, will have committed another

crime and end up back in jail within 3 years. (prison study)


b. Follow-up- With such a high recidivism rate a college education should not be

offered so it is not wasted. Allowing for GED classes can land someone a job

most of the time. Then if that individual is ready, they can go to college on

their own.
3. Sub-point 3- after all the methods presented above, with such a high recidivism

rate about 435,948 people go back to prison.


a. Evidence- 641,100 men and women were released back into society in

2015(Justice center)
b. Follow-up- Allow for someone to get a job with a GED, then if they want to

get a college education they can do it the right way.


B. Main Idea 2- Incarceration Cost
4. Sub-point 1- With an incarceration rate rising the cost of housing inmates will rise

and become more for the tax payers.


a. Evidence- For the fiscal year of 2017, the cost to house an inmate was

36,299.25. (Hyle)
b. Follow-up- Housing inmates is already expensive enough, why add a college

education to the price?


5. Sub-point 2- With tax payers paying to house inmates the price varies per state.
a. Evidence- Vera Institute of Justice released the data that tax payers paid in

about 453,365 dollars to house prisoners in the 2010 fiscal year. (Henrichson,

Delaney)
b. Follow-up- That is Oklahoma alone, different states will higher taxes will pay

in more. Why add a college education to that amount of money already?

Another 30,000 won’t hurt will it?


6. Sub-point 3- With the average incarceration cost at about 36,300 per inmate, that

will add up quickly with a high rate, that continues to rise yearly. With all the

money that it cost to house an inmate, could very much so benefit other things

throughout the year. With all the fees, bills, paying employees, health care, and

more adds up faster than we think.


a. Evidence- After prisons pay everything they need to the total cost comes out

to about 182 billion dollars in 2017. (Equal Justice Initiative)


b. Follow-up- After having over 180 billion dollars go into the prison system

why would anyone want to pay for more things to go into the same system.
C. Main Idea 3- Is It Beneficial?
7. Sub-point 1- A college education has not always been offered due to lack of

resources and funding. In 2015 the Obama Administration enacted a bill that

could potentially help.


a. Evidence- SCPP enacted by Obama Administration (Bender)
b. Follow-up- The allowance of college courses shows how hard other

individuals work to better themselves.


8. Sub-point 2- How are we supposed to know if someone who has been

incarcerated will ever put the education they received to use?


a. Evidence- 2016 RAND corporation released that an individual whose

participated in educational program is 43% less likely to return to prison

(Bender)
b. Follow-up- Once an individual has a job and is working while doing

something they enjoy; I do not think they will have time to go back to old

ways.
III. Conclusion:
A. Paraphrase Thesis: After all things considered like the recidivism rates, the continuing

cost of incarceration, and the benefits everyone still has their opinion, but once someone

or a group stands up for what they believe in, it could change everything.
B. Summarize main points: With recidivism rates as high as they are it is hard to even

picture giving someone a college education for free with no absolute they use it to the

best of their abilities. With incarceration increasing only means money will rise. If we are

paying over 30,000 for inmates why pay for a college education? How are we to ever

know it will not be money and time wasted? Or will it help benefit a criminal?
C. Provide/Issue Challenge: I do not disagree with declining someone the opportunity to

receive an education. With 18-22 year olds having to take out loans to receive the same

education is not fair. It is basically showing that if someone is to go to prison, they do not

have to pay to go to school just like everyone else, if that is the truth count me in! I think

incarcerated men and women should have to pay back everything it cost to give them that

education, just like we do. After a stable job and they get back on their feet begin

payments. Nothing is free in life is something we always hear, but is that really true for a

prisoner?

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