Education as Liberation: PFEF Prevents Recidivism with Education and Job Training

The United States incarcerates the highest number of inmates worldwide, but strict prison sentences are unfortunately not solving the nation’s crime problems. In fact, while more than 1.8 million incarcerated Americans are released back into the community, over two-thirds are rearrested for new crimes.

What’s more, incarceration creates its own new and long-lasting problems. Over five million US boys and girls have seen at least one parent serve time in prison and are six times more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system than their peers.

Incarceration casts a long and persistent shadow over the lives of inmates, one that extends across families and entire communities for generations. However, the Pitzer Family Education Foundation (PFEF) leverages the power of scholarships to dismantle the cycles of crime and imprisonment, ultimately forging stronger, more resilient communities.

PFEF unshackling minds, building futures

Incarceration serves not only as physical confinement but also traps people in a cycle of recidivism, where inmates and their children find themselves behind bars due to a lack of support and opportunities. This is where PFEF steps in, as the organization firmly believes that equipping inmates and the children of inmates with knowledge and skills unshackles minds and forges pathways to freedom.

As a retired warden, Percy Pitzer holds over 40 years of experience in the US correctional system. Even in the first years of his career, he noticed the power of recidivism and intergenerational incarceration. 

“I saw the cycle all around me,” remembers Pitzer. “Each time I saw children visiting parents, I knew I was probably looking into the faces of my future clients. Without intervention, inmates and their children are trapped in a cycle that is virtually impossible to break.”

While Pitzer has since retired from the US prison system, he did not give up his search for solutions. Before launching PFEF, he established Creative Corrections, an independent organization certified to conduct prison audits.

“When we improve the way a prison operates, its staff can look to long-term goals rather than day-to-day fires,” Pitzer explains. “That’s when we can rally inmates to join the cause of education. To date, we have seen inmates contribute over $240,000 to PFEF and fund 190 scholarships for the benefit of their children. I find that when you show inmates how a cause makes sense, they are extremely likely to rally behind it.”

PFEF’s initiatives aim to instill purpose, enhance employability, and fundamentally alter life trajectories. Its scholarship programs offer more than knowledge acquisition — they are a critical catalyst for societal change. By focusing on people impacted by the criminal justice system, PFEF strikes at the heart of recidivism and intergenerational incarceration.

PFEF’s educational programs transition individuals from incarceration back into the community, equipped with academic credentials and vocational competencies to secure stable employment. By addressing education and employment simultaneously, PFEF empowers both individuals and the communities they return to.

Empowering individuals, empowering communities

Education offers increased savings and long-term benefits. The United States spends over $55 billion on incarceration annually. When contrasted with the average annual cost of incarcerating one prisoner — $45,771 — PFEF’s $1,000 to $5,000 scholarships are a small price to pay. 

By empowering inmates and their children to enroll in college, trade school, and trade certificate courses, the community opens doors. PFEF equips people to break the cycle of incarceration by finding meaningful employment and leading productive lives.

“Putting people behind bars will not help communities solve their problems,” remarks Pitzer. “After all, that inmate will return, and their children are likely to follow in their footsteps. Education, on the other hand, gives inmates and their children tools to transcend their circumstances.”

In addition to individual liberation, education offers the promise of renewed, more resilient communities, as the personal transformation of each participant benefits the community. Through targeted education and job training programs, the organization helps former inmates rebuild their lives and creates role models within the community. 

The ripple effects are profound. As individuals find gainful employment and achieve stability, they contribute to the local economy, foster safer neighborhoods, and inspire others to follow.

As PFEF leads the charge toward reducing recidivism and intergenerational incarceration through education and job training, it calls upon society to recognize the potential within each individual. It’s an invitation to reimagine rehabilitation, where education serves not just as a tool for personal development but as a means of liberation and a foundation for a more equitable and humane society.

In bringing about this paradigm shift, PFEF underscores the crucial role of education in paving the way for a future where former inmates are not defined by past mistakes but by their potential to contribute meaningfully to society. 

“As communities embrace this vision, they liberate individuals and unlock a future brimming with possibilities to create a paradigm of prevention rather than punishment, of constructive contribution rather than costly confinement,” concludes Pitzer. “When given the chance, those who have strayed from the path can find their way back and become the architects of a stronger community.”

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