A start on this major research project might be the Google search: "female inmates" "prior education", which gets 36 unique hits (of 68), including:
NCJ Number: NCJ 098376 Title: Adult Female Offenders and Institutional Programs - A State of the Art Analysis Author(s): T A Ryan Corporate Author: University of South Carolina Criminal Justice Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation United States Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Corrections United States Sale: National Institute of Justice/NCJRS paper reproduction Box 6000, Dept F Rockville, MD 20849 United States NCJRS Photocopy Services Box 6000 Rockville, MD 20849-6000 United States Publication Date: 1984 Pages: 151 Type: Surveys Origin: United States Language: English Contract No.: T/A 83-398 Annotation: This report of a mail survey of 65 correctional facilities in 50 States and the District of Columbia, with an 88-percent return rate, analyzes the population of adult female offenders, as well as the programs and services available to them, and offers recommendations.
Abstract: The methodology involved developing the survey instruments, determining the survey population, administering the questionnaire, and interpreting the data. Completed returns were received from 58 facilities in 45 States. Data sheets were developed to record survey results. They were designed to cover 11 areas: proportion of female offenders in total population; demographic data; educational programs; prison industries; testing and counseling; medical, dental, psychological, and psychiatric services; child care programs; innovative programs; personnel; financial support; and litigation. Survey results indicate that the female adult population has increased since 1975, although the proportion to the total population remains unchanged. Changes in ethnicity indicate an exact reversal of statistics in 1975 of 38 percent white and 50 percent black offenders. Although the property crime rate has increased, there has been little increase in 10 years in the violent crime rate. The age and prior education of adult female offenders has not changed significantly. Educational and vocational programs and medical services for female inmates have increased. Litigation costs for female offenders is an increasing problem. Recommendations are offered that would develop policies to facilitate communications between correctional institutions and State agencies involved with education and rehabilitation. Also, suggestions center on networking managers and supervisors with adult female offenders in institutions. An exchange of ideas to identify resources in regional and national forums is suggested. Additional training of corrections personnel to deal with the specific problems and needs of female adult offenders is proposed. Finally, continued study to coordinate the different kinds of programs available is recommended. About 65 references are listed. Data tables and lists of survey partipants are appended. Index Term(s): Female offenders ; Female inmates ; Womens correctional institutions ; Correctional facility surveys. To cite this abstract, use the following link: www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=98376
The search "women prisoners" "prior education" gets 22 (of 42) hits. Google Books seems less promising; women prisoners "prior education" gets only 21 hits (even leaving out the double quotes)
Possibly searches of databases at large academic libraries could help. The subscription version of Worldcat gets 1 hit for the search: kw: education w level and kw: prisoners and yr: 1970-1980;
Inmate admission and release files, New York (State). Dept. of Correctional Services. 1976-1984 English Archival Material .2 cu. ft. (2 magnetic tape reels) The Admission and Release files contain criminal and demographic data on all inmates admitted to and released from DOCS facilities between 1976 and 1984. Each record identifies inmate's name, gender, ethnicity, education level, occupation, drug use, type of prior record and marital status. Each record also contains information on the crime committed and sentence imposed. US,NY NEW YORK STATE ARCH AO#
Title: Inmate admission and release files, 1976-1984.
Corp Author(s): New York (State). Dept. of Correctional Services. Year: 1976-1984 Description: .2 cu. ft. (2 magnetic tape reels) Medium: Magnetic tape. Language: English Action Note: Materials: 19684-97, 1976-1984, 2 magnetic tapes Actions: Accessioned Date: 6/30/97 Abstract: The Admission and Release files contain criminal and demographic data on all inmates admitted to and released from DOCS facilities between 1976 and 1984. Each record identifies inmate's name, gender, ethnicity, education level, occupation, drug use, type of prior record and marital status. Each record also contains information on the crime committed and sentence imposed. The admission record further describes the circumstance of the admission, including admission date, type and facility. The release record describes the conditions of the inmate's release from department custody, and includes release date, type, facility and whether the release is a first parole. SUBJECT(S) Descriptor: Prisoners -- New York (State) Prison sentences -- New York (State) Named Corp: New York (State). Dept. of Correction. Genre/Form: Machine-readable records. Case files. Geographic: New York (State)
Note(s): Bio/History: In 1975, the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) received a federal grant to replace its pre-1976 inmate history system with the Offender Based State Corrections Information System (OBSCIS). OBSCIS was designed to track inmate movement throughout the correctional system. It was also used to support operational studies and studies of population trends and characteristics. DOCS generated annual OBSCIS Admission and Release data files for research use. General Info: Restricted./ Inmate names are suppressed in the public use copy./ Agency record NYSV86-a363 describes the history and functions of the Dept. of Correctional Services resulting in creation of the records series./ Organization: Numerical by inmate identification number./ "Users' Guide to the Dept. of Correctional Services Offender Based State Corrections Information System, Admission and Release Files, 1976-1984" (prepared by Archives staff) is available./ Extensive hard copy documentation (provided by the Dept. of Correctional Services) concerning the use of this series is available./ Function: Admitting prisoners./ Releasing prisoners./ Administering correctional facilities. Entry: 19000000 Update: 20070203 Document Type: Archival Material Accession No: OCLC: 81587262 Database: WorldCat
Other subscription databases that might help are ERIC, Academic Search Premier (or Complete, at some very big libraries), and JSTOR. ERIC has no full text, and will need very broad searches such as prison* and "education level" (2 hits), or even women prison* (53 hits). Most libraries will link you to some full text from ERIC, but you can't search it. You may find it easier to try Academic Search Premier first. "Select a field" TX-All text and experiment with words within a certain number of words of each other ("Proximity Search"). The search: women n5 prison* and prior n5 education gets 32 articles; women w5 prison* and prior w5 education gets 15. The "N" means words can be in either order; "W" means the first one has to be first. JSTOR, a huge collection of full text scholarly journals, has a different way of doing proximity: "women prisoners education"~20 gets 63 hits. For this challenging a topic, it seems better to go with fairly general searches, and read through at least reasonably short lists of hits. The more precise you make the search, the more likely you are to miss something, if the authors or indexers used different words that mean the same thing.
If you don't have access to a large academic library, Worldcat.org is free to everybody with web access, but does not allow as precise searches. Go with very broad ones, such as: women prisoners education, and use the left column subject breakdown to narrow your results and date ranges. Worldcat.org also includes the big ArticleFirst journal article database. If you find something promising, it will give you the needed information to place an Interlibrary Loan - even if you are far from a library that has online access or owns the journal or book. It even lets you "Enter location" to search for holding libraries nearest your city or ZIP code.