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Learning Disabilities - Recidivism
Learning Disabilities in Correctional Insitutions

Prisoners generally have significantly lower literacy skills than the general population. 
Those who improve their skills return to prison less often. 
  • Only 51 percent of prisoners have completed high school or its equivalent, compared with 76 percent of the general population. 
  • Seventy percent of prisoners scored in the two lowest literacy levels of the National Adult Literacy Survey. This means that while they have some reading and writing skills, they are not adequately equipped to perform tasks like writing a letter explaining an error on a credit card bill or understanding a bus schedule. 
  • Inmates who have a high school diploma demonstrate lower basic skills than members of the general public with a high school diploma. 
  • Eleven percent of prisoners self-report having learning disabilities, compared with three percent of the general population. 
  • Various studies have found that education diminishes the rate of recidivism. A study by the Federal Bureau of Prisons concluded that "the more actively the inmates successfully participated in prison education programs, the less likely they were to recidivate."  
  • A Virginia study found that out of a sample of 3,000 inmates, 49 percent of those who did not participate in correctional education programs were reincarcerated, compared to 20 percent of those who did participate in these programs. 
  • An Illinois study found that inmates with an education of 8th grade or less were re-arrested at a rate of 62 percent. High school graduates had a re-arrest rate of 57 percent, and those with some college, 52 percent. 

Sources: "Literacy Behind Prison Walls," National Center for Education Statistics, "Prison Literacy Programs," ERIC Digest No. 159, "Literacy in Corrections," Correctional Education Association.

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