Can You Go to School While in Prison?

Can You Go to School While in Prison?

Yes. If you’re heading to prison, you might wonder what you’ll do with all your time inside. One of the options available, and sometimes required, is going to school. You might want to finish high school. You might want to earn a college degree. Or you might want to do something else. The good news is that you will have access to education.

Can you finish high school or get a GED in prison?

According to the Bureau of Prisons, all federal prisons offer literacy classes. In fact, prisons make incarcerated people who don’t have a high school diploma or GED take literacy classes. They must complete at least 240 hours of these classes or complete a GED. Prisoners who don’t speak English must take English classes as well. 

According to the Literacy Project Foundation, three out of every five prisons can’t read. And 85% of juvenile offenders have trouble reading. This means that more than half the people in prison must take literacy classes.

Unfortunately, the fact prisoners take literacy classes doesn’t mean the classes help. Incarcerated people often report that teachers don’t care or treat them well. Prisoners also may not care about learning.

high school prison books image
Image courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels.

Are there other high school classes you can take in prison?

Once you complete your literacy classes or GED, you have more education opportunities. Common examples include vocational and occupational training, which includes work opportunities. These may be programs in the building trade, cosmetology, horticulture, or culinary arts. They could also include carpentry, baking, plumbing, electrical work, and more.

The availability of these programs depends on each facility. But there are usually classes available for prisoners who want them. Getting accepted into these programs is possible, but it’s not guaranteed. 

Participation in the program also depends on how much time you have left in prison. On the one hand, you must have enough time left to complete the program. On the other, people with a lot of time left on their sentence may have a harder time.

Participation in programs helps incarcerated people prepare for their release. If too much time passes between a class and your release, the program could lose its purpose.

Can you earn a college degree in prison?

You can also earn a college degree in prison. For undergraduate degrees, state and federal prisoners can enroll. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

This is because you have to find a university with a program that works with prisoners by mail. With so many programs moving to online services, this can be tough. If your prison hasn’t teamed up with a college, you (or your family members) will have to find one on your own.

Then, even if you find a program, you run into another problem: money. College isn’t cheap, no matter who you are. And prisoners don’t have the same access to discounts, grants or student loans as others might. 

For those interested in pursuing graduate degrees, things get even more complicated. Again, many prisoners struggle with literacy and don’t have college degrees. So, most prisons and schools haven’t bothered addressing graduate programs.

But, even if you can find one of the rare programs, the cost is high. And you won’t be making much money — if any — behind bars.

The Takeaway:

If you go to prison, you will have a chance to take part in educational classes. Depending on your background, these could include GED classes, college classes and more. But you will have the opportunities if you put in the work to find them.

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