Utah could save money in the long run by putting more effort into educating and rehabilitating prisoners, State School Board members were told.

"We could stop the revolving door into prison by rehabilitating prisoners," said Bruce Griffin, associate state superintendent of public instruction.He asked for - and got - support from the board for a proposed line item of $1.6 million to initiate enhanced education/rehabilitation programs in the Draper, Cedar City and Gunnison prison units.

The money would be used to link the services of five state agencies concerned with Corrections in a comprehensive program aimed at reducing recidivism, Griffin said.

The request will be added to proposed financial building blocks for education programs.

Up to 65 percent of Utah's inmates return to prison after being released, Griffin said. The average cost of returning a felon to prison, not counting long-term costs of incarceration, is approximately $29,000.

In Idaho, where an aggressive education/rehabilitation program is in effect, only 28 percent of the parolees return to prison. The model is being used in several states and in some Canadian cities.

Griffin identified nine areas that should be included in an anti-recidivism project, including assessment, cognitive problem-solving skills, basic literacy skills, career skills, job placement, post-release tracking and support, research and evaluation, family involvement and support and multiagency collaboration.