Florida’s incarcerated population has risen 1000% over the last 40 years, and Florida now has the nation’s third largest prison system, with 100,000 people behind bars. Nearly 3 million people in Florida have a criminal record and Orlando has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.
Each year 33,000 people are released from Florida prisons, and another 80,000 are released from community supervision. Approximately a third of these ex-offenders will be rearrested within 3 years, but evidence shows that education increases the likelihood of post-release employment by 58%, reduces recidivism by 40%, and saves taxpayers money. Yet, until last year, Florida was one of only 12 states that did not offer any college courses to prisoners.
By 2020, an estimated 65% of all jobs will require postsecondary education, but most prisoners in Florida have limited access to higher education, despite the fact that statistical evidence overwhelmingly confirms that a college education reduces recidivism, increases employment opportunities, and strengthens communities. As the largest university in the state, UCF is well-positioned to bring transformative education to those behind bars.