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Education Policy and Crime Reduction: USA/Africa Comparability Study Research Paper


Educating prisoners and perpetuating an education policy that reduces unemployment reduces crime in societies. This has been the trend the world over and its application in developing countries is likely to have a major impact.

Although different cultures may present different approaches, this paper finds that the core concept is widely applicable.

The researcher finds that crime offenders in Africa are likely to reduce and this is likely to alleviate poverty if policy makers and governments put effort towards educating prisoners and creating sustainable employments for potential crime offenders.


In this era, knowledge is essential to life’s success and the transformation of a country’s economy. People acquire knowledge through education. Knowledge is an important tool that helps in overcoming difficulties, making life decisions and instilling winning mindsets in individuals.

One of the major contributors to crime is ignorance. It strips a person of dignity and makes them to resort to unorthodox means to survive. Education is a fundamental tool in changing the lives of prisoners and youth in society. It forms the basis for rehabilitation and criminal penalty.

Hence, government policies and penal institutions should prioritize eradication of illiteracy by helping youth and prisoners respectively to attain an education. There is evidence to suggest that this reduces recidivism rates and potential for crime among prisoners and youth.

Skills acquisition, mastering ethics at work, and teaching a trade or a profession helps youths to increase chances of being better citizens. Education also helps deter potential crime offenders from these acts.

This paper will interrogate USA and Africa’s efforts in youth education and its effect on crime reduction. The researcher will try to understand its applicability in Africa to achieve similar ends.

Literature Review

Importance of education in human capital formation is subject to debate in formulating education policies.

The influence of globalization, impact of conflict on education, performance measurements for the various stages in education and knowledge transfer with the aim of creating a knowledge economy form the basis of discussion in instilling lifelong learning and forming human capital.

Borghans and Heijke (2005) argue that governments have had structures to link education to the labor market for a long time. The authors reiterate these using six points of view regarding the informing nature of economies and labor market demands on education.

Green (2002) who seems to share similar sentiments with Borghans and Heijke (2005) argue that political and economic efficiency of the production process of education are critical to its success.

Although globalization centers on policymaking in divulging knowledge, Jallabe and Mora (2001) digress. They argue that universities’ adherence to Lifelong Learning is hampered, to some extent, by national policies, academic traditions and financial pressures.

The manner in which international discourse on Lifelong Learning affects policy-making remains vague and subject to the above factors.

This contrasts with Aucoin (2011) who critically elucidates on the massive opportunities and threats that globalization and embracing of ICT has brought to human capital formation and policy formulation.

Aucoin (2011) compares knowledge societies and knowledge economies of developing nations and developed nations. Developed nations pursue knowledge economies, which is the basis for comparative advantage.

Doyle (2008) compares systems of education in France and England based on the PISA 2000 benchmark. She looks critically at the PISA program concerning inequality in attainment of education and inequality levels.

The study finds the PISA program useful for comparison of inequality but finds fault in its use as a performance tool in comparing pupils and students. Doyle (2008) finds that the traditional setting of a country is a contributor to the performance of students.

Previous studies echo the same sentiments (Green 2002, Borghans and Heijke 2005).

Additionally, the study questions the universal applicability of the parameters PISA uses to measure the level of proficiency in reading literacy. This includes retrieving information, interpreting texts and reflection.

Fuchs and Wößmann (2007) dissect the PISA program as a tool to measure students’ performance.

The study finds that institutional contribution to students’ performance is significantly low compared to other factors such as family backgrounds, inputs from home and availability of useful education resources. They term these as ‘student characteristics’.

In contrast to Doyle (2008), this study analyzes the effect of external exam and budget formulation. Additionally, the two look at the autonomy of a school while selecting crucial learning materials (such as textbooks), hiring tutors, and the allocation of budget within the school.

This has been contentious and empirical evidence has not conclusively supported or negated the findings of this study.

Over time, the definition of education concerning policymaking and its consequences has been a subject of many studies (Carpenter and Hughes 2011). Carpenter and Hughes (2011) examine the speeches of political leaders and policymakers over a period of seven years.

This gubernatorial rhetoric, as Carpenter and Hughes (2011) find, centers on the efficiency that education brings to the economy. The two conclude that the rhetoric that seems to define education with an economic dimension ignores other important needs for education.

They state other crucial educational benefits such as self-realization, civic responsibility, development of human relationships and economic efficiency (Carpenter and Hughes 2011, pg 6). Fuchs and Wößmann (2007) discuss the issue of exit examinations thoroughly.

They conclude that performance in math and science subjects have a positive correlation with exit exams. They also find that private institutions have a higher performance than public institutions.

Fuchs and Wößmann (2007), however, note that public institutions with private finding do not measure up with private institutions. Other empirical studies had concluded as such with a little digression when it comes to the science subject.

Currently, the world is constantly engulfed in fear of war. Selected countries have had long spells of unrest especially in the developing world. The effect of war on education has been passively mentioned in various studies (Borghans and Heijke 2005, Fuchs and Wößmann 2007).

Davies (2005) takes an in-depth look into the effects of war on education and the ways in which education contributes or propagates wars. The study argues that education creates divisions (religious, ethnic, status) which make some people feel inferior (Lindahl and Cain 2012).

The root of this is selective application of education, distortion of curricula, creation of fear and competition. She reiterates that this may not be obvious to curriculum developers.

However, continued emphasis in media, and at the society level makes education seem like a demigod (Lindahl and Cain 2012).

However, Davies (2005), who looks at it from a positive and negative side, (Carpenter and Hughes 2011) empirically, proves that sentiments of this nature do not solve the underlying problems. Additionally, Aucoin (2011) digresses by saying that this view is archaic.

His study on the globalization and education impact on war, suggests that time has come for each person to have an education. However, the study states clearly that advancement of knowledge societies should be the concern of governments.

Rather, governments should not focus on knowledge economics since this creates divides and hence sentiments towards educated segments.

Davies (2005) points out positive aspects such as global education citizenship and peace education initiatives. The study outlines initiatives that the author finds possibly useful in quelling the fear of the educated.

However, these initiatives may not be universally applicable according to Carpenter and Hughes (2011). However, it is evident that Davies (2005) laments the fact that war and aggression will never cease in the world.

This means that education may continue to be threatened or it may continue to threaten peace in the world.

Although many international organizations have been trying to enact universal education (Jallabe and Mora 2001) through LLL, majority of countries have disseminated national LLLs. They are specifically configured to make the countries more competitive. This includes EU and US.

The two main objectives of LLL are social and economic. However, in countries where precedence over the proposed LLL has been overlooked, there are other priorities. This includes solving unemployment problems, labor market development, and career development.

This is similar to the situation in the United States (Carpenter and Hughes 2011). In Canada according to a study by Aucoin (2011), policies tend to be geared towards nationalization. However, there is a relaxed adherence to LLL.

Lifelong learning in the education sector benefits nations that have increasingly seen the need for universal education (Lindahl and Cain 2012).

The disadvantage with LLL is that there are countries that are barely able to meet the needs of the basic education, let alone other issues like health care and infrastructure developments (Jallabe & Mora 2001, 369).

Making these countries take on LLL exposes them to financial difficulties. Learning on a globalized scale has various effects on different countries.

With the practice, demography change and globalization are seen to determine the education system and its influence in the lives of the individuals (Green 2002).

Evidently, human capital formation is the central theme in the dissemination of knowledge (Green 2002). However, it has taken an economic and national dimension (Jallabe and Mora 2001).

Although this may be the formula for solving national, economic, and political problems, it does not auger well in the globalization of education (Aucoin 2011). Production and use of human capital should not have one goal (Borghans and Heijke 2005).

Additionally, it should reflect the need to have a safer world (Davies 2005).

According to Borghans and Heijke (2005), the growing need for knowledge, labor market uncertainties, and complicated ways of acquiring education (Aucoin 2011) requires explicit investigation into production and use of human capital.

This is because there is an economic dimension to it. The two echo earlier studies by Green (2002), Jallabe and Mora (2001).

There are fierce critics that do not find it in order to educate prisoners using taxpayers’ money. Additionally, they argue that it is not good to act soft on law since it will encourage a society where offenders will constantly benefit from their misdeeds and hence encourage more crimes.

Education in itself, the critics suggest, will encourage the offenders to engage in more high profile crimes of white-collar nature. There is also an argument that there is no direct relationship between crime reduction and education levels.

Otherwise, there would be fewer crimes in developed countries unlike developing countries. In contrast, United States has the highest number of inmates in the world and it is one of the most developed countries.

In fact, some critics argue that educating offenders makes a country to have brighter and manipulative criminals.

The education sector will not be standardized in the future since it has failed in the past. Globalization will bring more options to the education sector without necessarily standardizing it.

The need to have economic and labor market superiority will continue to dampen efforts at making education to be all-round. Additionally, education will propagate more wars than before especially in the developed nations.

In the developing nations, the same may happen but this means that resources will be redirected which may cause an international outcry. However, this does not discount the importance of education.

Method of Analysis

This paper will depend on the use of secondary data analysis. The researcher will analyze governments’ data on prison numbers and their re-incarceration levels.

Additionally, the paper will analyze the data related to the effectiveness of educating prisoners and criminals as a way of reducing poverty levels. The paper will look at minorities in USA and compare this with governments’ data in Africa for further analysis.


According to government’s statistics (in United States for example) close to 1 million prisoners are released annually. Most of them offend again and return to prison together with first time offenders. The United States government spends over $30 billion to construct prison facilities.

If the government were to reduce this recidivism rates by half, it would save so much. Education provides individuals with confidence in life and an alternative from crime. Once educated, a prisoner can rely solely on self.

A prisoner is able to raise a family better when they have equal chances for the available opportunities. However, this is not possible in a case the opportunities are skewed.

Once an individual raises their family well, chances of a generational circus of crime are grossly reduced. In the long term, this is beneficial to both the society and the economy.

Education in prisons provides better ways of utilizing the free time that inmates have in prison. This free time may be used for planning other evil deeds and making life for other prisoners and superintendants hard.

Provisions of education bring some order as prisoners are expected to be at particular centers at particular times.

A study of close to 20 empirical studies suggests that higher education reduces the possibility for re incarceration of prisoners from both genders. Without any education on average 80% of the prisoners who are released from prison, return there within five years.

If they were to be educated, the rate of recidivism will reduce according to the level of education achieved. The higher the education level, the lower the chances of returning to prison.

For prisoners who attain a bachelor’s degree around 6% are re incarcerated, for those who attain an AA degree around 14% are re-incarcerated, for those who attain a Masters degree, there is a zero chance of re incarceration.

It is also crucial to note that while in prison, these convicts are always in constant torment and a dangerous environment. This may be transferred to society.

It follows that educating prisoners brings about safety in a society. This is because most of the prisoners are normally between the age of 22 and 45. This is an active age, which is characterized by high energy. If it is not well utilized, there is real danger.

Reduction in the number of people in prison means that the government devotes fewer resources in building and sustaining these facilities. This reduces recurrent expenditure. Additionally, empowering these citizens makes them productive.

Hence, it increases their purchasing power, which bolsters economic performance. It also helps them to contribute to the gross domestic product. Overall, this is healthy to the economy of a country.


Another school of thought suggests that the justice system perpetrates the problem instead of solving it. Consequently, there is lack of college education of over a third of the minorities because at a time when they are supposed to be obtaining an education they are sent in prison.

Once they are outside, the time for them to attend college is gone. Hence, the justice system needs to be overhauled to ensure that it does not punish. Rather, it should find a way that the perpetrator pays for their social misdeeds without denying them a life.

This makes it worse because these are minority groups. Additionally, this does do not frequently happen with white males. This is because majorities are incarcerated at the age between 35 and 45. At this age, a person has completed college and started a family.

Hence, there will be little sentiment when the person gets out of prison. This is not the case with African Americans. In late 2010, a report commissioned by the government showed that close to 12% of African American children has a mother in prison (Black Demographics 2012).

The percentage is almost double of the children who do not have fathers in their young upbringing. This shows that prisons disintegrate close to 30% of minorities’ families going by this sample. According to psychologists and sociologist, this creates a cycle of incompleteness in children.

In the end, the problem of irritability, desperation and frustration creeps, and the cycle of crime and anti social behavior leads the minorities’ kids in prison. This creates a generational problem (Black Demographics 2012).


A continued incarceration of social and criminal offenders has not deterred crime. With the world population increasing by day, more and more people are finding themselves in prisons. Most of them are first time offenders and a considerably large number of recidivists.

Because of this trend, it is logical to employ the use of education, especially higher education, as the social and fiscal alternative in tackling this menace. There are far reaching positive effects of education on youths and ex prisoners. These effects have wide social and fiscal benefits.

Education in itself is an avenue to employment after prison. With private and public partnership, this can bear many fruits in the overall societal life. It reduces chances of an offender going back to me crime and makes offenders responsible to their families.

Further, education increases self-esteem, self-confidence, enables youths and ex prisoners to become role models and most critically increases their options in the larger society.

This is the same effect education has on the overall African youth. This has the potential of spilling over into far reaching economic gains and even poverty reduction.


Aucoin, R. (2011). Information and Communication Technologies in International Education: A Canadian Policy Analysis. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 6(4):1-11.

Black Demographics. 2012. African Americans and Crime: Incarceration. Web.

Borghans, L. & Heijke, H. (2005). The Production and Use of Human Capital: Introduction. Education Economics, 13(2): 133.

Carpenter, D. & Hughes, H. (2011). Gubernatorial rhetoric and the purpose of education in the United States. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 1(6): 6.

Davies, L. (2005). Schools and War: Urgent Agendas for Comparative and International Education. Compare, 35(4): 357–371.

Doyle, A. (2008). Educational performance or educational inequality: what can we learn from PISA about France and England? Compare, 38(2): 205.

Fuchs, T. & Wößmann, L. (2007). What Accounts for International Differences in Student Performance? A Re-examination Using PISA Data. Empirical Economics, 32: 433-464.

Green, A. (2002). The Many Faces of Lifelong Learning: Recent Education Policy Trends in Europe. Education Policy, 17(6): 611-626.

Jallabe, J. & Mora, J. (2001). Lifelong Learning: International Injunctions and University Practices. European Journal of Education, 36: 361-377.

Lindahl, R. & Cain, P. (2012). A Study of School Size among Alabama’s Public High Schools. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership 7(1): 1-27.

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