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Ask A REL Response

August 2019


Is there any research that has a focus on what teachers can do to help reduce recidivism?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on what teachers can do to help reduce recidivism. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed what teachers can do to help reduce recidivism. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Cho, R. M., & Tyler, J. H. (2013). Does prison-based adult basic education improve post release outcomes for male prisoners in Florida? Crime and Delinquency, 59(7), 875-1005.
    From the abstract: "The authors use administrative data from Florida to determine the extent to which prison-based adult basic education (ABE) improves inmate's postrelease labor market outcomes, such as earnings and employment. Using two nonexperimental comparison groups, the authors find evidence that ABE participation is associated with higher postrelease earnings and employment rates, especially for minorities. The authors find that the relationship is the largest for ABE participants who had uninterrupted ABE instruction and for those who received other education services. However, the results do not find any positive effects of ABE participation on reducing recidivism."
  2. Hall, L. L. (2015). Correctional Education and recidivism: Toward a tool for reduction. Journal of Correctional Education, 66(2), 4-29.
    From the abstract: "Vast arrays of research have evaluated recidivism through a limited scope, analyzing various factors independently. This study endeavors to execute a systematic review of factors attributed to recidivism in order to focus the research trajectory toward the most promising recidivism reduction tool. Various risk factors of recidivism have been identified; however few can be utilized as a tool in reduction. Of those tools, research indicates that correctional education programming appears to offer the greatest reduction outcome. The importance of this research is established by reorganizing the major research findings on correctional education programs from 1995 to 2010 in order to show the impact of education on recidivism. To accomplish this goal, a typology of the research is created to delineate the factor that is most promising in reducing recidivism, correctional education. Specifically, an analysis of 10 empirical studies is performed in order to understand the impact of correctional education programming on recidivism. Findings reveal conclusiveness about educational programming as a reduction tool for recidivism."
  3. McElreath, D. H., Doss, D. A., Jensen, C., Mallory, S., Wigginton, M., Lyons, T., Williamson, L. C., & McElreath, L. S. (2018). Failed hopes of education: Revisiting the relevancy of education as a method of diminishing recidivism. International Journal of Adult Vocational Education and Technology, 9(1), 15-30.
    From the abstract: "This article describes how, generally, the majority of inmates will recidivate again within five years of being released from incarceration. Recidivism represents cyclical criminality that affects all American communities. Despite substantial expenditures toward the warehousing of inmates within the corrections system, less emphasis is directed toward leveraging vocational and career educational programs as resources through which recidivism rates may be reduced societally. However, in 2015, the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program was announced as an experimental program whereby prisoners may access Pell funding for educational purposes. Given the advent of this experimental program, this article reviews some historical literature and recommends future directions regarding education among corrections settings."
  4. Nally, J., Lockwood, S., Knutson, K. & Ho, T. (2012). An evaluation of the effect of correctional education programs on post-release recidivism and employment: An empirical study in Indiana. Journal of Correctional Education, 63(1), 69-89.
    From the abstract: "In order to examine the effect of correctional education on postrelease employment and recidivism, the Education Division of the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) has established a study group of 1,077 offenders and a comparison group of 1,078 offenders to evaluate the outcome measures (e.g, post-release recidivism). All offenders in the study group attended a variety of correctional education programs while incarcerated in IDOC facilities, while all offenders in the comparison group did not participate in correctional education programs. The results of this study demonstrate that an offender who has not attended approximately 3.7 times more likely to become a recidivist offender after release from IDOC custody when compared with an offender who has participated in a variety of correctional education programs during incarceration. The recidivism rate is 29.7 percent among offenders in the group who attended a variety of correctional education programs. On the contrary, the recidivism rate reached 67.8 percent among offenders in the comparison group who did not attend correctional education programs during incarceration. This study's results imply that correctional education programs may serve as an important mechanism in reducing the recidivism among released offenders, which, in turn, will significantly reduce the incarceration expenses that are associated with recidivist offenders. (Contains 4 tables and 3 footnotes.)"
  5. Steele, J. L., Bozick, R. & Davis, L. M. (2016). Education for incarcerated juveniles: A metaanalysis. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 21(2), 65-89.
    From the abstract: "Based on screenings of 1,150 manuscripts, we synthesize evidence from 18 eligible studies of educational interventions implemented within juvenile correctional facilities. The studies include 5 intervention categories: remedial academic instruction, computer-assisted instruction, personalized academic instruction, vocational education, and GED completion. Effectiveness is measured in terms of 4 outcomes: academic performance in reading or mathematics, diploma completion, postrelease employment, and postrelease recidivism. Focusing on studies with the strongest basis for causal inference, we find positive and statistically significant effects for computerassisted instruction in raising reading comprehension, and for personalized learning in improving diploma completion and post-release employment. These findings are driven by large and well-executed randomized trials of Scholastic's Read 180 curriculum and Florida's Avon Park Youth Academy. Despite the limited research base, these studies suggest that it is possible to undertake rigorous research in juvenile facilities about programs that best improve the outcomes of young offenders."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Teachers helping to reduce recidivism
  • Correctional education, impact on recidivism

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.