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Program Profile: Postsecondary Correctional Education (New Mexico)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 13, 2017

Program Summary

The program provides postsecondary educational classes and programs to prisoners via one-way Internet courses or onsite vocational instruction. The goal of the program is to reduce arrests following release from prison. The program is rated Promising. This program was shown to significantly reduce arrests within the 1-year follow-up period.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Postsecondary Correctional Education program is an educational intervention offered to incarcerated individuals in New Mexico state prisons. Prisoners are offered college-level academic or vocational courses through one-way Internet connections or onsite programs. The primary objective is to reduce recidivism rates of inmates once they are released from prison. Secondary objectives are to increase self-esteem and reduce inmate behavior problems while in prison.
Program Eligibility
To participate in postsecondary educational programs, inmates must have a GED or high school diploma, record of appropriate behavior while in the prison system, tested to determine readiness for courses, and not serving time for murder, child abuse, or a sex offense.
Program Components
Postsecondary correctional education programs are offered in seven out of nine state prisons in New Mexico. The programs are offered statewide so that students can continue in postsecondary education if they are transferred to another prison. A variety of correctional education programs are available. For example, there is a business administration and university studies associates’ degree program, and a bachelor’s degree program in business administration. There are also vocational certificate programs, in which inmates take one course per session.

The postsecondary educational programs in New Mexico state prisons have two delivery models: Internet or onsite instruction. College-level programs are taught via one-way, Internet instruction. Inmates enrolled in vocational courses receive onsite instruction. All vocational programs are taught by the New Mexico Corrections Department’s Education Bureau, while college courses are provided through a “Web Course Tool” (WebCt), which connects to Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU). The closed WebCt connection is similar to what is offered in the web-based instruction that is available to ENMU’s other students, but inmates do not have access to the Internet through the live system.
Program Theory
There are several obstacles that incarcerated adults must face upon their release from prison. On average, prison inmates are less educated than the general public. The idea behind providing educational programming in prison is to help inmates successfully reenter society with basic skills such as math, reading, and writing, which are necessary for everyday living. By improving academic and vocational skills of prisoners, they should have increased prospects of gainful employment and reduce their odds of recidivating (Wilson, Gallagher, and MacKenzie 2000).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
New Arrests
Winterfield and colleagues (2009) found that overall the new arrest rate was significantly lower for inmates who participated in the postsecondary correctional education program while in a New Mexico state prison, compared with inmates who did not participate, at the 1-year follow-up.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Winterfield and colleagues (2009) conducted a quasi-experimental design to examine the impact of postsecondary education on incarcerated individuals in the New Mexico prison system. The total study sample was 3,873 prisoners (353 in the treatment group and 3,520 in the comparison group). The comparison group was formed from prisoners who did not want to participate in postsecondary education. Propensity score matching was used to ensure the treatment, and comparison groups were similar on baseline characteristics. The treatment and comparison groups were 90 percent male; and were 80 percent white, 9 percent black, and 10 percent other race. In terms of ethnicity, the groups were 53 percent Hispanic, and the average age was approximately 30 years. No significant differences between the treatment and comparison groups remained after the propensity weight was applied. 
The treatment group was enrolled in college-level academic coursework (associate’s degree program in business administration or university studies, or bachelor’s degree program in business studies) taught via one-way, Internet connection or in vocational coursework that was taught onsite in the prison. The comparison group did not participate in the postsecondary education program.
The follow-up time period was 1 year after release from prison. The study took place from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2005. Data information was collected from the New Mexico State Department of Corrections. The main outcome of interest was recidivism, which was defined as a new arrest for either a new offense or technical violation. Logistic regression was used to examine the data.
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The postsecondary correctional education programs in New Mexico were funded by state and federal Incarcerated Youth Offender (IYO) block grants (Winterfield et al. 2009). However, it is not known how the programs are currently funded.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Winterfield, Laura, Mark Coggeshall, Michelle Burke-Stover, Vanessa Correa, and Simon Todd. 2009. The Effects of Postsecondary Correctional Education: Final Report. Washington: D.C.: Urban Institute.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Wilson, David B., Catherine A. Gallagher, and Doris Layton MacKenzie. 2000. “A Meta-Analysis of Corrections-Based Education, Vocation, and Work Programs for Adult Offenders.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 37(4):347–68.

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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Postsecondary Correctional Education (PSCE)
Postsecondary correctional education is academic or vocational coursework taken beyond a high school diploma or equivalent that allows inmates to earn credit while they are incarcerated. The practice is rated Promising in reducing recidivism (including reoffending, rearrest, reconviction, reincarceration, and technical parole violation) for inmates who participated compared to nonparticipants.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 24 - 40

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Aftercare/Reentry, Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center