One of the things people are most curious about when it comes to prisons is how prisoners spend their time. How do you get through each day when you know you can’t get outside the prison walls? When your freedom is taken away, how does it affect your life? Can you even spend your life in prison?
The concept of time in prison is very different from that in the free world. Everything is determined by the date. When is your parole hearing date? When is your release date? How many days until you are released? When is December 12th (prison slang for the day you have no parole and no DOC at all)?
All of these are topics of the day — whether you have ten days or ten years before your release.
When talking about how prisoners live, it is inevitable to mention the issue of education. Can prisoners go to school? Can you study in prison?
This blog post will be all about educational opportunities in prisons, covering the following topics:
- Prisoners and pre-prison education
- The reality of prison education
- Literacy and GED Programs in Prisons
- vocational training in prison
- Getting a College Degree in Prison
Prisoners and pre-prison education
The United States imprisons more people than any other country on Earth.You may have heard of a disturbing statistic in the United States 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prison population.
This love of mass incarceration was fueled by the War on Drugs that began in the early 1970s, but what is often overlooked in our troubled criminal justice system is the lack of education in the prison population, and how this affects people getting caught up in the law, and recidivists.
according to Literacy Project Foundation, three out of five people in US prisons cannot read, and 85 percent of juvenile offenders have difficulty reading. With these numbers, it’s no surprise that most inmates don’t have a high school diploma or GED, let alone any postsecondary education.
The reality of prison education
according to San Francisco Chronicle, “Research shows that providing prisoners with a solid education is one of the surest ways to reduce their re-entry rates after release.”
While the federal Bureau of Prisons and state departments of corrections can’t do anything about education before a person ends up in prison, there are things they can do while they’re incarcerated. This has led the federal government and individual states to pass laws or create policies requiring prisoners to attend school while incarcerated.
All federal agencies now offer literacy classes, English as a second language, parenting classes, health education, adult continuing education, and library services.
Officially, states like California have made education an important part of recovery, but the reality is very different. In California, only 6 percent of inmates take academic courses and 5 percent take vocational courses.
This problem is prevalent in prisons across the United States, and no matter which state you look at, the education statistics are terrible.
Literacy and GED Programs in Prisons
Because the vast majority of inmates are illiterate or have difficulty reading — and they don’t have a high school diploma — they must attend school while incarcerated. Can you study in prison? The answer is yes. Not only can you learn, but we encourage you to learn.
In most cases, inmates without a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate must participate in a literacy program for at least 240 hours, or until they earn a GED. Prisoners who do not speak English must speak English as a second language.
In the prison where I’m being held, inmates taking GED classes attend school Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, and they are also allowed to borrow books and study aids from the prison library for use when classes are not in class superior.
Inmates who earn diplomas can find work as counselors, helping students with their classes. Since I’m one of the few people with a college degree (I know only one inmate on a campus of 1,800 inmates), inmates often come to me to help with their studies.
Most of the inmates I tutor drop out in 9th or 10th grade and need help with basic math and reading comprehension.
Let’s be honest, while inmates without diplomas have to go to school, that doesn’t mean they’re excited about taking classes and learning. Classes and teachers aren’t always the best. If you think some public schools are bad, you should look at prisons.
The environment is not the best. Many teachers don’t care or think that prisoners are inferior. Prisoners feel a failure in life at a young age and have no motivation to improve themselves.
For those who really want to learn and prepare for a better future, the opportunities are there.
vocational training in prison
Once you receive your GED—or if you come in with a diploma or GED—most prisons have vocational and vocational training opportunities that inmates can sign up to help them gain job skills.
Vocational and vocational training programs offered by different agencies are tailored to the needs of prisoners, general labor market conditions, and institutional workforce needs.
In my prison, the vocational courses offered were construction trades, cosmetology, gardening and culinary arts. Ever since I went to jail for growing plants, I’ve often considered taking gardening classes just to be sarcastic, but I’ve finally decided against it. Since I’m college educated, I don’t want to fill a void that would benefit someone else.
Some prisons offer courses in carpentry, baker, office management, plumber, HVAC and electrician. Opportunities vary by facility, but if inmates do want to continue their education, there are usually programs available for them to choose from.
Admission to these programs often depends on the time you have remaining in prison. Your sentence needs to have enough time left over to complete the program, but not so much time left that ten years will pass between the time you start class and your release date.
The focus of these programs is to provide inmates with job skills, so too much time between classes and release dates can lose focus.
Of all the educational programs offered by prisons, vocational courses seem to be the most preferred by inmates. Gaining new skills motivates many inmates, but whether they translate those skills into income after release is unclear.
Getting a College Degree in Prison
a moment in our history Inmates eligible for Pell Grants That way they could get money to go to college while incarcerated, but those grants were taken by the federal government years ago.
Inmates in most facilities have access to a college education, but they must complete it at their own expense, and they must find an educational institution with a correspondence program that they can work with.
Some prison libraries have resources available to help prisoners enroll in prison programs offered by nearby colleges or universities, but if prisoners want to do this, they really need the help of someone outside the prison walls.
Prisoners have no internet access or income, making it extremely difficult to earn a college degree in prison. But it can be done if there is a desire, and someone in their life who is willing to help them gather the information and pay for it.
Unfortunately, this is extremely rare because college courses don’t count as “education” in prison when it comes to job assignments. I know a guy who took college courses at the prison I’m in.
let me explain. In most facilities, you must attend school or have a full-time job, but correspondence courses do not fall under the school category. This means that if you have completed your GED and want to take college courses, you must do so in addition to working a full-time job.
However, it can be a great option for extremely long-serving inmates to get them through those long days, months, and years.
I would also like to point out that some prisons Offer unique courses Go beyond the GED and vocational courses like Shakespeare acting, Russian literature, coding and expository writing.
If interested, external volunteer programs like Shakespeare in Prison and The Last Mile will take these lessons into prisons, and oftentimes, the waiting list is long. These aren’t for college credit, but they do help inmates develop life skills and exercise their critical thinking skills, which can help boost their self-esteem.
Both state and federal agencies have made some efforts to address inmates and education to help reduce recidivism. However, there is still much work to be done. It’s always up to the people involved – does the teacher or student really care? Do students want to learn?
Not only do prisoners learn in prison, but they receive an education that will help them succeed outside and never return once released. However, it takes hard work and a desire to better yourself, which can be difficult when you lose your freedom.
What are your thoughts on prisoners and education? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Does The United States Really Have Five Percent of the World’s Population and One-Quarter of the World’s Prisoners? US Prison System Plagued by High Illiteracy Rates Education Programs Federal Student Aid for Students in Adult Correctional and Juvenile Justice Facilities Classes You Won’t Believe Inmates Can Take In Prison