Receiving an education while incarcerated has resulted in significant changes in inmates’ risk of reoffending and returning to prison. Inmates are finding it easier to re-establish themselves as they reintegrate into society thanks to prison education.
Despite the fact that many prison systems have established some sort of educational program through various universities and colleges, admission remains difficult. The barriers to obtaining a higher education have been more than simply being selected for admission.
Despite all odds, inmates who have obtained higher education, specifically a college degree, are laying the groundwork for a positive and productive future. With the assistance of family and friends, an inmate can make lifestyle changes that will affect the remainder of their prison sentence as well as the rest of their lives.
Can you get a degree as an inmate in prison?
Yes, in a nutshell. The advantages of obtaining a college degree while in prison include not only gaining educational experience but also passing the time while making lifestyle changes that will be beneficial in the free world.
Prison education allows inmates to develop and maintain valuable self-esteem, which is often lacking. They can learn how to interpret articles, manage their time effectively, and be accountable for their thoughts and actions through education. The most important remedy for reducing the risk of recidivism is education.
Statistics show that the more knowledge you have, the less likely you are to engage in criminal activity, which may result in a return to prison. Because inmates are incarcerated, the barriers to admission to a college or university are insurmountable.
What is Prison Education?
Most jails and prison systems require at least a GED or a high school diploma. For many years, this was the standard education until various colleges and universities determined that an inmate who receives vocational training or a college degree has a far better chance of success upon release from prison.
A certificate or degree obtained through high school education can allow an inmate to learn a new trade that will be extremely beneficial to their future. Unfortunately, evidence shows that many inmates lack educational experiences, which can often be a motivator for them to engage in criminal activity.
Mail correspondence courses are offered by colleges and universities that frequently collaborate with the prison system. These programs are typically offered in both state and federal prisons.
An inmate who receives an education while incarcerated has the potential to have better employment, earn a higher wage to support themselves and their families, and reduce the risk of reoffending in the future. Earning a higher wage and benefits can provide ex-offender with opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.
Types of degrees and training are available
Degrees and training options differ from state to state and from prison to prison. Each has its own set of rules and regulations that must be followed. Because inmates have limited access to higher education, it can be difficult for them to obtain a degree.
Many college and university programs require students to attend in-person or via the internet. This is a basic luxury that many people overlook. There is no internet access in prison, making obtaining a college degree all the more difficult.
The various vocational training programs available in the prison system provide inmates with the opportunity to learn a new skill or trade that can provide them with the advantage they need to make a promising and productive life for themselves and their families.
Qualifying for financial aid is one of the most difficult challenges that inmates and ex-offenders face. Certain felony convictions can prevent an individual from being accepted not only into a college program but also from receiving financial aid and working in certain fields. It is necessary to conduct research to ensure that an inmate is enrolled in courses for a field in which they will be permitted to work. Many professions are prohibited, including health care, pest control, insurance, real estate, and banking.
Educating Inmates vs. Recidivism
A person’s disposition to regress into criminal activity is one of the most interesting concepts to understand. There are numerous things that have been identified to be contributing factors for a person to be inclined to participate in illegal activity, including:
- Mental illness
- Substance addiction
- Economic standing
- Racial diversity
- Educational gaps
Many ex-offenders are re-arrested within three years of their release. This is due to their familiar lifestyle and inability to obtain substantial employment. Recidivism is much lower among those who participated in educational programs provided by prisons.
Receiving a higher education has a positive impact on more than just inmates. As crime rates fall and property values rise, the community benefits. More people want to live in a community with a low crime rate and citizens who are proud to give back to their community.
The Value of obtaining a GED in prison
Many people underestimate the importance of obtaining a GED or a high school diploma. It is a critical step in furthering one’s education. To enroll in college or university courses, you must have a GED or a high school diploma. There are far too many inmates who lack a high school diploma or the equivalent. As a result, they are more likely to engage in criminal activity.
Obtaining a GED is a new beginning for most inmates, allowing them to enter more educational programs in the future. Given the prison population’s literacy rates, many inmates will require assistance with fundamental education, such as English and English as a Second Language, if applicable. Understanding and passing literacy courses can be more difficult for those who are not native English speakers.
Getting a college degree in prison
Getting a college education while serving a prison sentence is possible. There are some aspects that make it more challenging, but it is not impossible. The biggest challenge that many inmates will be faced with is funding because the Federal Student Aid program has strict guidelines involving convicted felons.
President Obama’s administration recognized the challenges that inmates and ex-offenders face obtaining federal funding and presented The Second Chance Pell Program as another opportunity for inmates to get the subsidized funding necessary to attend a college program.
Another challenge is access to various courses. Most colleges or universities offer online courses, however, inmates are not provided with access to the internet for many reasons. In some prisons, a limited internet access program has been developed called Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS). This program allows inmates to send and receive emails through a paid service but does not meet the requirements for online schooling.
There are thirteen states that offer vocational programs and many offer an alternative method of attending in the form of correspondence courses. A few states have been the leaders in developing educational opportunities for inmates. States that are most recognized for their leadership are California and Texas.
Financial Aid for Inmates
As previously stated, one of the most difficult challenges for inmates will be obtaining funding for a college education. The most important factor for all Americans who want to attend college is funding.
Federal student loans and grants are available to help low-income students pursue higher education. Despite the fact that these programs are available to all American students who want to pursue a college education, anyone with a felony conviction may be denied eligibility. The denial is contingent on the facts of their convictions. Federal student loans will take into account the applicant’s official charges. In any case, you have the right to appeal the decision at any time.
That being said, anyone interested in attending college should begin by completing a FAFSA application. The FASFA application, which is largely based on income from the previous tax filing, assists you and the government in determining your eligibility for student aid.
Scholarships and Grants
There are a few grant-funding organizations that work specifically with inmates. It is always worth applying for a grant when given the opportunity. These organizations include:
- The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration
- The Prison Scholar Fund
- Prison Education Foundation
In an attempt to change behavior design, a few organizations have developed scholarships for the educational needs of children with incarcerated parents. Rutgers University is one of the organizations that participate in this scholarship program. The other organizations that participate are:
- Creative Corrections Education Foundation
- Give Back
- The Children with Incarcerated Parents Initiative
Those who are serving a prison sentence are aware of what is expected of them, but they face challenges when reentering society. Some of these difficulties include job restrictions and being vulnerable because your skills are simply insufficient. Gaining new skills and qualifications that will give you a better opportunity is one of the best ways to move forward.
Although there may be some aspects of earning a college degree that is difficult, this should not deter you from your goals of building a better life. Your prison sentence is an individual struggle, and the best way to avoid recidivism is to apply yourself to change your life.
Don’t be discouraged if some employers refuse to look past your criminal record, and keep in mind that there are advocacy groups that exist primarily to assist you in your transition from incarceration to reentry.