Gunnar Jensen, CDCR teacher working at the Corcoran State Prison's Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, read our recent blog coverage of cuts planned for the prison system's teaching corps. He decided to write a letter to the governor and other elected officials. He sent a copy of the form letter to The State Worker and, with Jensen's permission, we're posting it here, unedited.
Jensen is speaking for himself, not his department or his fellow employees.
November 6, 2009
I am sending this letter to urge you to do what you can to stop the planned layoffs of nearly 800 prison teachers, statewide. By limiting educational opportunities for offenders, this act will cost far more money than it could ever save.
While there exist few longitudinal studies to support education's positive role in reducing recidivism1, we know that completing high school requirements through the General Education Development (GED) instruction and testing program has opened doors to employment for thousands of people in our state. If we truly wish to provide rehabilitation in our prisons, we must make available every opportunity for offenders to achieve this goal before paroling or returning to society after serving their sentences.
During my experience teaching in prison, I have encountered many inmates who are keenly aware of what earning a GED will mean for their future prospects of staying out of prison. Many have told me they do not want to return (to prison), and that earning their GED is the key to making that possible. Without a GED, re-violating is almost inevitable.
Please understand that academic Instructors working for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are the "R" in CDCR. Without them, that "R" will likely come to represent "Recidivism".
Click the following link to read the rest of Jensen's e-mail.
I know these are difficult times. I know you have much to contend with. However, I hope you can see that retaining California's correctional educators is an important and vital investment that saves our state's resources. Those leaving prison with limited opportunities are at much greater risk of returning. When they do, the very negative ripples that follow touch families and eventually entire communities.
Please do what you can to retain the current level of educational opportunities for California's inmates. Thank you for your efforts.
Very truly yours,
*One of the few studies available can be viewed @-- http://www.ceanational.org/PDFs/3StateFinal.pdf