Reentry and Integration Division
High school dropouts more prone to a life of crime
Spring Observer (TX)
By STEFANIE THOMAS
At first glance, data provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice may lead to the simple conclusion that individuals with high school diplomas or even higher education commit criminal acts at a higher rate than high school dropouts. After all, nearly 55 percent of the 153,000 or so inmates in all 113 Texas state prison facilities have a verifiable high school diploma or GED, leaving the rest, about 45 percent, of all inmates in Texas without.
But considering that of the state’s adult population of about 17.6 million residents (18 and up) a little more than 79 percent have attained a high school diploma or beyond, means that the 3.7 million adult residents in the state without high school diplomas are responsible for 45 percent of the inmate population, compared to the remaining 13.9 million adults with diplomas who make up the other 55 percent of incarcerated persons.
It follows that one of 166,082 Texas high school graduates is incarcerated, as is one in every 53,228 high school dropouts.
In other words, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the TDCJ, an individual who has not completed high school is more than three times as likely to commit a criminal act and wind up in a Texas prison, where the average IQ score is 90.6, as a high school graduate.
“High school dropouts have a much more limited avenue for career choices and well-paying jobs,” said Houston Police Department Kingwood Division Lt. Carlton Brown. “All too often, they get stuck in low-end jobs that don’t offer a great quality of life, which can in turn lead to acts of theft, burglary, robbery, you name it.”
Census data (2007) indicates that individuals without a high school degree are 3.5 times less likely to be gainfully employed than their diploma-holding counterparts. The mean annual income for a person between the ages of 25 and 34 without a high school diploma is $21,000, while degreed workers in the same age group earn an average of $31,000 per year. The higher the educational level achieved, the higher the mean earnings.
“Staying in high school is only the first step,” Brown said. “People need to work hard in school, develop good work habits, learn what it means to strive for advancement.”
Statistics further show that in the national arena, Texas and its 79.1 percent high school completion rate ranks near the bottom of education attainment, trumping only Mississippi with a high school completion rate of 78.5 percent and way below the national average of 84.5 percent.
“As a former parole/probation officer who has dealt with convicted felons for decades, I can unequivocally confirm that the prisons are unfortunately filled with individuals who dropped out of school and did not receive their high school diploma,” said Andy Kahan, longtime crime victim’s advocacy director for the city of Houston.
“The harsh reality is that the odds of someone who has not received a high school diploma going on to criminal behavior is higher than those that have at least a high school degree. Reducing the dropout rate would certainly influence the crime rate and reduce the number of people becoming victims of crime.”