We have all heard the chant, "Be cool, stay in school." It's a worthy objective as part of the goal to improve graduation rates whether it's here in Virginia or anywhere else in the country. Statistics suggest high school dropouts find it harder to find living-wage work opportunities than those who do graduate. Some stay in school advocates also suggest a diploma may expand access to quality health care.
There is even some research that indicates that attaining at least a high school diploma is beneficial if you are in a situation where you have to mount a criminal defense.
The reason: data suggests that a high school graduate convicted of a crime is less likely to face prison time than someone who does not have a diploma. Additionally, one study has found that convicted offenders with high school diplomas received slightly shorter terms of incarceration than non-graduates do.
The work by a criminal justice professor at a university in Texas looked at data collected by the U.S. Sentencing Commission between fiscal years 2006 and 2008. He examined the federal crime cases of more than 115,000 people. One-third of defendants had dropped out of high school. Nearly 60 percent of them had diplomas and 7 percent cold claim college degrees.
The whole purpose of the research was to determine what impact, if any, education level had on the nature of the sentence imposed upon a person's conviction. The results are as noted above.
The findings come as the debate continues over how to reform the criminal justice system in the United States. Some of the argument centers on inequities based on race, acknowledging the well-documented fact that black males convicted of crimes receive harsher sentences than white males in cases where details of the cases are similar.
Based on the Texas research, it would seem that educational bias might be something to consider in the reform mix.