Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology, Applied

First Advisor

Gerald R. Garrett

Second Advisor

Dennis A. Humphrey

Third Advisor

Robert A. Dentler


This study of the Higher Education in Prisons Program (HEPP) records the experiences and consequences of a joint effort by two major state institutions, the Department of Correction and the University of Massachusetts at Boston, to address the problem of prisoner education and rehabilitation. The following analyses are undertaken: (1) an historical overview places the HEPP program in a long line of educational programs whose goals emphasized personal change and moral growth; (2) an investigation into the early years of the HEPP program finds funding, accessibility, inmate and student involvment and unpredictable incidents influential in determining the success of the program; and (3), an examination of recidivism data on 127 HEPP students who both completed six or more University of Massachusetts at Boston courses and were released between 1973 and 1983 reveals few major differences on social and criminal history characteristics between HEPP and non-HEPP groups.

The differences noted were: (1) HEPP students entered prison with a higher level of educational attainment; (2) HEPP students served longer sentences; and (3), the HEPP group had a higher proportion of veterans. Data do reveal differential likelihood of recidivism between HEPP and non-HEPP inmates. Overall, slightly less than 10 percent of HEPP students were recidivists within twelve months of release, compared to 16 and 26 percent in two cohorts (1978 and 1979 respectively) of inmates in Massachusetts Correctional facilities. Using follow-up periods up to four years, cohort inmates were more than twice as likely to become recidivists than HEPP inmates.

In comparing recividists and non-recidivists in the HEPP study group, recidivists differed in several areas: they were often urban, less well-educated coming into prison, more likely to be black, and were imprisoned for less violent crimes than non-recidivists.

These historical and recidivism analyses were designed to provide the Department of Correction with information useful in evaluating higher education programs and in broadening the discussion of educational policy decisions.


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