First Advisor

Mark Leymon

Term of Graduation

Spring 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice




Criminal Justice, Education, Pell Grants, Prison



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 41 pages)


Postsecondary college education (PSCE) services are a rehabilitative program that offers adults in custody (AICs) the opportunity to earn a college degree while incarcerated. Research has shown that AICs participating in PSCE services reduce the likelihood of future incarceration as well as higher self-esteem and confidence levels. In 2015, President Obama’s Second Chance Pell Pilot program reinstated federal financial aid for AICs to access PSCE services. Although the Second Chance Pell Pilot program has continued to grow since then, little research has been done on public perceptions toward prison Pell Grants.

This thesis studies how offender crime type and sentence length influence support for college education in prison. A public survey was posted on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Respondents (n=827) were randomly assigned to one of eight different vignettes that were designed by crime type (nonviolent, drug, violent, and released) and by sentence length (three years or fifteen years). Participants then ranked their level of agreeableness on a six-point Likert scale for five dependent variables: prison is effective at reducing crime in society, support for college education in prison, support for financial aid in prison, criminal history should determine college eligibility and college education should be accessible for anyone in prison.

A One-way ANOVA showed that participants who read the released vignette demonstrated more support for the dependent variables than participants who had received the nonviolent, drug, and violent crime vignette. Next, a Two-way ANOVA was run to see how crime type and sentence length impacted the level of support for the five dependent variables. Four of the five models were statistically significant (p

In conclusion, the crime type demonstrated a statistically significant support level for prison Pell Grants. The released vignette yielded more support for PSCE services and federal financial aid than the other three crime types. However, sentence length did not appear to impact the level of support. The message framework did appear to influence the person’s level of support for prison Pell Grants. As research continues to understand public perceptions toward rehabilitative services, framework experiments are essential to understanding what justice policies are most palatable for the public.


©2023 Natalie Miles Burke

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