The Incarcerated Student in Alabama: An Exploratory Study of Student Engagement at a Technical College
The incarceration rate in the United States is slowly declining after decades of record growth. The result of this decline is a growing number of formerly incarcerated individuals reentering society. It is known that by participating in education while incarcerated, individuals are 28% less likely to recidivate following release (Bozick, Steele, Davis, & Turner, 2018). Alabama’s recidivism rate in 2015 was 29.3%, with approximately 3,149 out of 10,715 released individuals returning to prison (Alabama Department of Corrections, 2018). Most often the measurement of successful educational programing is based on outcomes of recidivism rates and job placement without regard to the benefits of student engagement and the success that comes from the academic environment. While much is known about student engagement in community colleges and four-year institutions, little is known about the implications of engagement for incarcerated students in a technical college setting. This exploratory quantitative study sought to explore incarcerated student engagement in career and technical education (CTE) by utilizing a new survey instrument, the Incarcerated Student Engagement Questionnaire (ISEQ), to systematically collect data in the areas of program engagement, academic engagement, and student aspirations. The results indicated that students enrolled in CTE classes through the technical college exhibited high levels of engagement. Factors of engagement were predictive of overall student satisfaction. Additionally, engagement factors were predictive of students’ perception of courses inspiring them to think in new ways.