Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2009

Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Helen Moore and Professor Hugh P. Whitt. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2009

Copyright (c) 2009 Grant Tietjen


This study investigates factors that predict inmate participation in prison educational programs using the Bureau of Justice (BJS) 2004 Survey of State and Federal Inmates. I apply the theories of controlology, Marxist criminological theory, and critical education theory. I then review the literature on various types of prison educational programs. The potential predictors of educational program participation are ethnicity, age, children, marital status, class, prior education, sentence length, and type of crime. I hypothesize that people who have higher socio-economic status (SES), shorter sentence lengths, higher levels of pre-incarceration education, and inmates convicted of non-violent crimes are more likely to participate in post-secondary education while incarcerated. Using regression analysis, I examine predictors of prison educational program usage. I find that inmates with higher SES upon entry are less likely to utilize educational programs possibly due to higher median levels of previous education. It also appears that non-white inmates are more likely to utilize GED/High school programs possibly because of lower median levels of previous education upon entry. Results also indicate that the longer an inmate’s sentence is, the more likely the inmate is to use correctional education programs. I argue that educational programs should be designed which target inmates who are less likely to participate and explore theoretical explanations for educational program usage.

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