Beliefs about Higher Education for Incarcerated People Through the Lens of Public Health Prevention

Beliefs about Higher Education for Incarcerated People


  • Holly Harner University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
  • Brian Wyant La Salle University



Incarcerated individuals are one of the most educationally disadvantaged populations in U.S. Limited education is a risk factor for initial incarceration and recidivism. Despite robust empirical findings supporting post-secondary correctional education (PSCE) as an evidence-based intervention that reduces crime, some individuals are reluctant to support their adoption more widely. An opinion piece in the New York Times suggesting that prisons be turned into colleges provides an opportunity to better understand public opinion regarding PSCE programs through the lens of public health prevention. Although, many readers were supportive of PSCE’s as a means to prevent recidivism, many questioned if the target population was capable of completing college level work, if these programs would incentivize criminal behavior and felt prisoners are not deserving of the opportunity to take college courses, especially as student debt and college costs are rising. Lastly, potential implications and recommendations for policymakers and higher education leaders are discussed.   

Author Biography

Holly Harner, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The Afaf I. Meleis Director of the Center for Global Women’s Health 

Practice Professor of Women’s Health 

Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute  

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing