Can You Study In Prison?

The theory of time is very different in prison than in the free World. The topic of conversation in prison is the same day in and day out, time. Dates and time rule everything in prison.How long is your sentence? When will you see parole?

With all the dates that occupy your mind, there is also a way to break up the monotony of life within the prison walls. As part of the rehabilitation program that prison strives to achieve is the treatment of inmates. Educational programs are high on the list.

With the prison system designed with the theory that rehabilitation is possible and to make positive changes in an inmate’s life now that will affect how they live their lives once released. Equipping inmates with new skills and educational opportunities  might be the thing they need to walk the straight and narrow upon release.

Education before incarceration

It is not surprising that more and more people who are incarcerated in the United States are lacking in the education department. According to the Literacy Project Foundation, three out of five people who are incarcerated in U.S. prisons cannot read. Furthermore, an estimated 85% of juvenile offenders have trouble with reading.

With the statistics of inmates in prison, it is not shocking that most inmates have less than a high school education, and very few have post-secondary education. Studies that have been conducted over the past two decades indicate that higher education in prison programs reduces the risk of reoffending.

The lack of education has been viewed as a potential indicator of the inmates’ recidivism rate. The rate is decreased by 20% for those who participated in a GED program than  those who did not. Giving inmates a positive outlook on their future through educational opportunities may reduce any prison aggression or infractions.

The realism of prison education

The Institute for Higher Education Policy has reported that the recidivism rates for those who participated in prison education programs were an average of 46% lower than the rates of those who had not taken classes.

Arming inmates with a solid educational foundation is one of the best ways to reduce the reoffending rate. Since the lack of education began prior to being incarcerated, the Federal Bureau of Prisons cannot change the inmates’ past; however, they can change the inmates’ future.

The certainty of educational growth has led to Federal and State laws that require inmates to attend classes during their incarceration period. All Federal Prisons offer literacy classes, parenting classes, library services, adult education, and English as a Second Language.

Within the prison system, life skills programs are available. These are designed to help inmates learn to manage anger, overcome criminal thinking, set and achieve realistic goals, develop and maintain healthy relationships, and avoid substance abuse.

Educational programs cost around $1,400 to $1,744 per inmate every year. This may imply a significant amount but are pennies compared to the cost to incarcerate them again. The prisons save an estimated $8,700 to $9,700 per inmate that does not return to prison.

Education can provide people a voice. It can open opportunities for a better future and restore individual’s self-esteem and social capabilities. The funding received from Federal, state, and local governments is imperative to make a drastic change in an inmate’s life.

Literacy and GED classes in prison

In many cases, inmates who do not possess a high school diploma or a GED certificate are required to participate in the literacy program for a minimum of 240 hours or until they are able to obtain their GED.

In some prisons, those who have their diploma can apply for a tutor position. The position allows the inmates who have a higher education to help those who need further guidance. Unfortunately, many of the teachers in prisons education system are not the ideal motivators. Some would say that they are not as caring as teachers in the free World are. Given the facts, the teachers in a prison are often not educators, but administrative staff.

Some state prisons have a mandatory level that inmates must score at or above to be exempt from attending literacy courses. Literacy and education programs are crucial if inmates would like to live a productive life outside the prison system.

There are opportunities available for those who want to further their education and start their rehabilitation right. Having a foundation of knowledge may help with employment opportunities upon being released from prison.

Vocational and Occupational training in prison

Once you have received your GED or if you already have your diploma or GED, there are numerous vocational and occupational training programs at most of the prisons that inmates can sign up for to assist them in requiring new or improved job skills.

The types of vocational and occupational training programs available at different institutions are based upon the individual needs of the inmate, the labor market conditions, and the labor needs with the institution. An additional factor that must be considered is the funding available for such programs.

Being accepted into those programs typically depends on many factors: how much time you have left on your sentence, your age, current offense, and any infractions that you have had. You need to have enough time left to complete the program, but not so much time that years go by from the time you complete the class to the time you are released.

The various vocational education programs that are offered include barbering, carpentry, plumbing, electrical trades, horticulture, culinary arts, welding, and custodial maintenance to list a few.

There are a variety of education opportunities available through the Education Department in Federal prisons. The staff urges you to expand your education and participate in the range of programs offered. By Federal policy, all prisoners who have not received a high school diploma or GED, must enroll for up to 240 hours in a GED program.

The Education department at Federal prisons are responsible for educational testing, academic training, vocational training, social education, recreational activities, and the Law library. All inmates will be required to have placement testing completed and be enrolled in a mandatory Adult Basic Education or GED program.

The primary purpose of having programs like these is to provide inmates with motivation to gain new employment skills that they don’t have.

Can you get a college degree while in prison?

Once upon a time inmates were eligible for Pell Grants from the government to enable them to attend college while incarcerated. These grants were taken away years ago by the Federal government, however, in 2015, the Obama administration announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. An experimental program that allowed 12,000 qualifying inmates to take college level courses while in prison. The continuation of this program resides in the hands of Congress.

Inmates are still able to pursue a college education, but will have to pay for it themselves and find an educational institution that offers a correspondence program that suits them. Some prison libraries have resources available to aid with getting accepted by a prison program that is being provided by a college or university nearby. To achieve this goal, the inmate will need the help from someone outside the walls of the prison.

Since inmates do not have internet access or an income to speak of, getting a college degree can prove to be more difficult behind bars. It is not impossible, but will require a tremendous desire to achieve something better. It can be rather tricky as college courses are not counted as education in the prison system.

An inmate in prison is required to either attend classes or have a full-time job. College classes that are completed by correspondence, do not fall into the school category. It means that if you want to take college classes, you will have to do it in addition to working a full-time job.


Federal and state institutions have made an effort to address the educational problems that inmates face by providing various programs to further their education and to reduce the rate of reoffending. The reductions in crime not only offers savings to taxpayers, but helps with long-term improvements to the safety and overall well-being of the communities that offenders return to.

It takes hard work and a strong desire to be successful in receiving a higher education. It is the desire of many inmates to learn new things that can help them reintegrate into the community and be prosperous with an improved quality of life for themselves, their families, and their community.

The long-term economic benefits that can be achieved through various educational programs are countless when it comes to the level of self-esteem that an inmate now has. An educated inmate now is empowered with new skills and opportunities that can change their lives.

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