Reducing Recidivism through Correctional Education: The Roles of Neoclassical and Behavioral Economics

  • Laura Erickson The George Washington University


The correctional system in the United States is expensive and often punitive rather than rehabilitative. One potential way to reduce both recidivism rates and criminal justice spending is through correctional education. This paper explores the value of correctional education through both neoclassical and behavioral economic perspectives and considers potential tradeoffs and implementation challenges to expanding correctional education. Policymakers and the public at large may hesitate to provide such a service, but it is important to consider cost-effective ways to reduce recidivism. Ultimately, evidence suggests that correctional education is an effective way to reduce recidivism rates and potentially save money.

Author Biography

Laura Erickson, The George Washington University

LAURA ERICKSON is a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate at George Washington University where she is concentrating in Social Policy. Her particular policy interest is the intersection of criminal justice and racial inequality. She graduated from Auburn University in 2016 with degrees in Political Science and Sociology. Laura is a Child and Youth Policy Intern in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as the MPP Professional Development Co-Chair for the Trachtenberg Student Organization.

The author would like to thank everyone from Policy Perspectives for their insight and guidance, particularly Brittany Harris, Abigail Johnson, and Professor Marvin Phaup. She would also like to thank Professor Gerald Brock, for whose class this paper was written. Finally, she would like to thank her parents, Carol and Teddy Erickson, and her boyfriend, Brian Bender. She is grateful for their encouragement and support throughout this process.