Masters Thesis

Student perceptions of a college distance learning program at a maximum security prison

Although most studies show a correlation between a prison inmate’s participation in post-secondary education and a reduced tendency to recidivate, or reoffend once he is released, little evidence exists to show a causal link between the two. Yet, correctional education literature primarily utilizes recidivism as a measure of program success. Few researchers direct their attention toward alternative criteria to evaluate program success or to acquire the inmate perspective of what works. This study explored a California community college academic distance learning program at a California maximum security prison for men. The researcher analyzed data gathered from student interviews and grade reports to determine inmates’ perceptions of the effect of the college program on attitudes, behavior, and academic achievement. Inmate students praised the prison for enabling them to bring meaning to their lives, even in the most restrictive of circumstances, with a program which could potentially impact the entire prison culture.