Social Interventions: Secondary Education

Incentives offered to high school drop-outs to encourage them to return to school and graduate have decreased crime in the area by 71%, according to one American study – much better results, and at a lower cost, than would be gained by enforcement programs.1

Educational failure often leads to low self-esteem and emotional disturbance, as well as frustration in the job market – all risk factors for criminality.2

According to Correctional Service Canada, Grade 7 is the average education level of newly admitted offenders who are serving sentences of two years or more.3

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Saskatoon lawyer Kearny Healy has found that education is the second-best predictor of which people are likely to be sentenced to jail. (The best predictor is whether they have ever been in jail before.) Youth who have attained a Grade 12 education or higher are substantially less likely than other youth to go to jail.4

Forcing youth to stay in school does not to solve this problem – in some cases, it may even do the opposite. One study found that delinquent activities of drop-outs diminished markedly once the youth had left school.5

One approach which yields much better results is to address the underlying reasons why some youth find it difficult to stay in school. These reasons can include families moving frequently, emotional problems at home, learning disabilities (see Special Needs Programming), and bullying at school (see Countering Violence).

In Winnipeg and Saskatoon, there are effective projects which address a number of these underlying reasons. (See Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin No. 8, 2004.)

As educational requirements in the labour market continue to rise, it is likely that the impact of post-secondary education as a protective factor against criminality will also increase.

Groups such as Aboriginal people who have historically faced discrimination, typically have the most to gain from obtaining a post-secondary education – and the most to lose from the lack of one.6 Troy Rupert, Coordinator of the Thunderbird House Aboriginal Centre in Winnipeg, says that "about 50-60% of the time" the former gang members who come to his centre "can't find funding to go to school, so they get frustrated and go back to their old lifestyles." (See "When the Party's Over" in Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin No. 8, 2004.)

Unfortunately, the costs of post-secondary education rose rapidly between 1990 and 2000. Tuition fees climbed by 135.4% over that period – six times faster than inflation7 – which puts higher education out of reach for many at-risk young people.

It costs approximately $100,000 to incarcerate a youth for just one year – enough money to provide a young person with four years of university education.8

Other Social Interventions

  Addictions Treatment
  Countering Violence
  Early Childhood Education
  Employment
  Housing
  Income
  Neighbourhoods
  Positive Parenting
  Recreation
  Rehabilitation
  Special Needs Programming

Notes:

1Waller, I. Cutting Crime Significantly. Unpublished manuscript, 2003.

2 Waller, I. and Weiler, D. Preventing Crime through Social Development. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1984. See also Waller, I. Cutting Crime Significantly. Unpublished manuscript, 2003.

3 Movement for Canadian Literacy. Literacy and Justice Fact Sheet. See www.literacy.ca/litand/4.htm

4Healy, K. Tough on Kids: Rethinking Approaches to Youth Justice. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing Ltd., 2003.

5Waller, I. and Weiler, D. Preventing Crime through Social Development. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1984.

6See "Urban Aboriginal Youth: An Action Plan for Change" at www.parl.gc.ca/37/2/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/abor-e/rep-e/repfinoct03-e.htm

7Hanvey, Louise. The Progress of Canada's Children 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2002. See www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2002/pcc02/hl.htm#cr

8National Crime Prevention Council. Safety and Savings: Crime Prevention through Social Development. Ottawa: NCPC, 1996. See www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/familyviolence/html/fvcrimeprevention_e.html