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Davis, L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J.L., Saunders, J., Miles, J.N.V. (2013). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education. A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Rand Corporation. Sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance


Each year, thousands of incarcerated adults leave the nation’s prisons and jails and return to their families and
find jobs, and become productive members of society, many others will commit new crimes and end up being reincarcerated. Although a number of factors account for why some ex-prisoners succeed and some don’t, we know that a lack of education and skills is one key reason. This is why correctional education programs—whether academically or vocationally focused—are a key service provided in correctional facilities across the nation. But do such correctional education programs actually work? We care about the answer both because we want ex-prisoners to successfully reenter communities and because we have a responsibility to use taxpayer dollars judiciously to support programs that are backed by evidence of their effectiveness—especially during difficult budgetary times like these. Across this Administration, we are committed to investing in evidence-based programming, investigating promising practices, and making science a priority.

Fortunately, the passage of the Second Chance Act of 2007 gave us a chance to comprehensively examine the effectiveness of correctional education because it includes a specific provision to improve education in U.S. prisons and jails. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, with guidance from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, competitively awarded a project to the RAND Corporation in 2010. We asked RAND to comprehensively examine the current state of correctional education for incarcerated adults and juveniles and where the field is headed, which correctional education programs are effective, and how effective programs can be implemented across different settings. This valuable report—a new meta-analysis examining the effectiveness of correctional education programs—is a key part of that effort and can help us answer the question of whether the nation’s investment in correctional education is indeed achieving its intended outcomes.

The results presented here are truly encouraging. Confirming the results of previous meta-analyses— selecting and evaluating them than in the past—RAND researchers show that correctional education reduces postrelease recidivism and does so cost-effectively. And the study also looks at another outcome key to successful reentry—postrelease employment—and finds that correctional education may increase such employment. The reason the findings for employment are merely suggestive is that only one of the 19 studies that evaluated post-employment outcomes used a highly rigorous methodology.

This need for more high-quality studies that would reinforce the findings is one of the key areas the study recommends for continuing attention. Just as important is the need to better understand what makes some programs more effective than others—is it the program design, the type of instruction, the length of the program, or, more likely, some combination of these and other factors? Having such knowledge is key to telling us which programs should be developed and funded—which programs will provide the greatest return on taxpayer dollars. Other parts of the RAND project, including an assessment of best practices derived from examining current programs, will further illuminate what works, but new and ongoing studies should be designed in ways that help isolate the causal effects of particular program designs.

The results provided here give us confidence that correctional education programs are a sound investment in helping released prisoners get back on their feet—and stay on their feet— when they return to communities nationwide. We are pleased to have been able to work cooperatively across our two agencies with the RAND staff and to offer this important information.

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Joseph A. Durlak, Roger P. Weissberg, Allison B. Dymnicki, Rebecca D. Taylor, Kriston B. Schellinger, (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions Child Development, 82(1): 405–432


This article presents findings from a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning
(SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. Compared to controls, SEL
participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic
performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement. School teaching staff successfully
conducted SEL programs. The use of 4 recommended practices for developing skills and the presence of
implementation problems moderated program outcomes. The findings add to the growing empirical evidence
regarding the positive impact of SEL programs. Policy makers, educators, and the public can contribute to
healthy development of children by supporting the incorporation of evidence-based SEL programming into
standard educational practice.

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Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson (2008) Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative ExpertisePLos One 3(3)


Recent brain imaging studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have implicated insula and anterior cingulate cortices in the empathic response to another’s pain. However, virtually nothing is known about the impact of the voluntary generation of compassion on this network. To investigate these questions we assessed brain activity using fMRI while novice and expert meditation practitioners generated a loving-kindness-compassion meditation state. To probe affective reactivity, we presented emotional and neutral sounds during the meditation and comparison periods. Our main hypothesis was that the concern for others cultivated during this form of meditation enhances affective processing, in particular in response to sounds of distress, and that this response to emotional sounds is modulated by the degree of meditation training. The presentation of the emotional sounds was associated with increased pupil diameter and activation of limbic regions (insula and cingulate cortices) during meditation (versus rest). During meditation, activation in insula was greater during presentation of negative sounds than positive or neutral sounds in expert than it was in novice meditators. The strength of activation in insula was also associated with self-reported intensity of the meditation for both groups. These results support the role of the limbic circuitry in emotion sharing. The comparison between meditation vs. rest states between experts and novices also showed increased activation in amygdala, right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) in response to all sounds, suggesting, greater detection of the emotional sounds, and enhanced mentation in response to emotional human vocalizations for experts than novices during meditation. Together these data indicate that the mental expertise to cultivate positive
emotion alters the activation of circuitries previously linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli.

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Jennifer S. Mascaro, James K. Rilling, Lobsang Tenzin Negie, Charles Raison (2012) Compassion Meditation Enhances Empathic Accuracy and Related Neural Activity, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access


The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important foroptimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, Cognitively
Based Compassion Training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI (fMRI) scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT, were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These results suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

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Linton, J., Lockwood, S., Nally, J. & Steurer, S. (2010). The top-nine reasons to increase correctional education programs. Corrections Today, 40-43.

Lockwood, S., Nally, J.M., Ho, T., Knutson, K. (2012). The effect of correctional education on post release employment and recidivism: A 5-year follow-up study in the state of Indiana. Crime & Delinquency, 58(3) 380-396. doi: 10.1177/001128712441695.

Pew Center on the States (2011). State of recidivism: The revolving door of America’s prisons. Washington D.C.: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Mallory, J. (2015). Denying Pell Grants to prisoners: Race, class, and the philosophy of mass incarceration. International science review (90)1, pp.1-27