Educational and/or vocational programming and recidivism of camp inmates in the Nevada Department of Corrections

William Jordan Fox


As crime increases each year in the United States, so does the number of ex-felons who are eventually released into society. Historically, in order to deal with the problem, prison administrators have fluctuated between punishment and rehabilitation, the latter being the current focus. Much research has been done examining relationships between various prison programs and recidivism. Although there are some exceptions, studies have generally shown that education and vocational programs have been a useful tool in reducing recidivism. The State of Nevada offers inmates a wide variety of correctional programs but has never conducted a recidivism study of any inmate population. A study comparing various program options and their impact on recidivism could be useful to determine which programs, if any, are effective in reducing recidivism. This study examined educational and vocational programming and various demographics with recidivism of Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) camp inmates released in 1997. Inmates were followed for up to 54 months to determine if recidivism occurred. No statistically significant relationship was found between vocational programming and recidivism. However, a statistically significant positive relationship was found between educational programming and recidivism. Those who programmed in education while incarcerated were more likely to recidivate than those who did not participate. A statistically significant relationship was found between recidivism and three demographics: sentence length, time served, and number of disciplinaries received while in prison. Recidivists tended to have longer sentences, to have served less time in prison, and to have committed more disciplinary infractions than those who did not recidivate. However, although some findings were statistically significant, they did not fully explain why inmates recidivate, accounting for only 13% of the variability. Most of why inmates return to prison remains undetermined by this study. Classification and interpretation of data was a problem which may have affected the results. Recommendations included instructing case workers to code inmates in a uniform manner and to include dates and additional information in inmates' files in order to assist future research and to enable prison officials to determine which programs affect recidivism. Other recommendations included conducting additional studies on various inmate populations.