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Educating Inmates: They Are Still Human Too Essay


We live in a modern society that still hold traditional morals and beliefs. Prisoners are seen as inhumane animals who bring nothing but misery and cruelty to the world. An education is one of the most important things one may ever receive in their lives. One can no longer gain any type of employment without a high school education and even college hours, so why would society care to hold anyone back from getting an education? Prisoners are having a hard time receiving education in the prison system today. No one seems to care or support prisoners in the challenging process it takes to change their lives. County jails do not offer education programs, and in prison facilities there are many limitations and restrictions that make receiving the sub-par education that they offer a challenge to receive.

An evaluation needs to take place to determine the crux of education limitations are in prison. There are many people who have been to prison or who have family and friends who have been to prison and have some sense of understanding as to the challenges inmates face. Who is standing up and being the voice for inmates who rarely are heard, and who is pushing the envelope against society and stressing the importance of education. Inmates who will be released one day must have a backup plan other than a life of crime, so their needs to be a system or program in place to reform inmates before their release.


In researching about education everything found seems to enhance the knowledge on education in prison. It has become astoundingly clear that society does not promote a positive change for people who are incarcerated. Society has an outdated view of people incarcerated and do not seem interested in changing it. No one plans life with the idea in mind that prison will be a part of it. With family and friends who have been incarcerated, I will be the first one to say that not all imprisoned people are innocent, but mistakes do happen. Society feels that bringing education into the correctional system is a waste of time and effort. Many students feel that inmates should not be offered for free what they have to pay for, but what most people do not realize is that not only do the inmates pay for education just like most, but they are also receiving a below average education. Although education has been in the prison system for over a century, society deters from education socially, politically, and economically (Palmer, 2012).

In the long run however, it creates more setbacks for an inmate upon release seeing as though many jobs require post-secondary education. The decision to evaluate education in the prison system is to get a better understanding as to why there is not a nationwide push on inmates bettering themselves and staff support to follow as well. There are several barriers that prevent inmates from successfully completing programs while incarcerated. Some factors are due to environmental circumstances and other factors are due to personal circumstances. Conflicts between officers and inmates as well as transfers can lead to inmate’s incompletion of their education program. Also inmates who are released have no after plan set up between them, the prison system, and other sources to assist with the completion of an education started while incarcerated. There is no assistance for released inmates that encourages them to continue pursuing education. Psychological disorders and the stress of school itself may lead to an inmate dropping out or incompletion of the program.

When inmates become depressed or discouraged they give up and education falls to the bottom of their list of priorities. Mental disorders that inmates receive medication for, may affect their ability to learn and the stress of how to cope and manage may cause an inmate to quit rather than deal with the obstacles at hand. Economic barriers such as funding and limitations in academics and teachers also prevent inmates from starting or completing a program. Despite the barriers that restrict education in the prison system, the government and society ultimately fail to realize that more education inmates receive the more the cost for prison funding decreases. When the Federal Pell Grant was introduced there was a relief and an increase in enrollment for inmates because they could now afford tuition, but some political figures did not agree. Politicians tried a hand at a fear tactic where inmates were perceived to be unrepentant people who would continue to commit crimes all of their lives so why educate them and waste money. The tactic worked and in 1994 a law was passed that took federal funding out of prisons and caused many prisons to close their education departments, an estimated 350 programs decreased to 10 or less.

Many courts have helped to hold merit behind politicians tactics because many courts have also deemed education in prison has no constitutional entitlement and therefore does not have to be enforced or supported (Lockard et al., 2011). In the 21st century, despite all obstacles, enrollment for post-secondary education has steadily increased. Another factor that prevented inmates from enrolling in classes was that when the federal funding was in the prison system was that inmates who were over the age of 35 were ineligible and inmates who were convicted on drug related charges. It seems as if there are many obstacles that are preventing inmates from receiving education and not many people are fighting to change it. Education in the prison system not only helps inmates but it reduces inmate misconduct as well. Inmates who were educated prior to incarceration and continue education while incarcerated are more likely to keep their behavioral problems to a minimum. An education not only builds someone up mentally, it builds self-esteem and self-worth.

Denying someone an education in prison becomes just the premise of a bigger mental denial that they will deal with long after they are released. Inmates get a sense of confidence that being incarcerated can sort of strips someone of. An education helps an inmate to think reasonably and acutely of what they are doing before their behavior takes a turn for the worse and not only lengthens their sentence, but start a habit of destruction. An educator believes that whether the inmate is enrolled to pass time or build up their resume for employment upon release hopefully someone will learn something useful and take that away with them and that it will be valuable to them later on in life (Rafay, 2012). There is a belief that making sure an inmate leaves prison more well of than they came should be a moral obligation that officers have. Everyone should want to reduce crime and improve the overall quality of life for everyone.

Receiving an education while incarcerated also helps decrease the likelihood that a person while be subject to re-arrest once they are released from prison. There are also several outside barriers that prevent education from being introduced into the correctional system. Factors such as academic curriculum and prison facility guidelines prevent inmates from getting an education, not to mention that the United States is lagging behind every other country in education in prison programs (Lockard et al., 2011). The teachers may also have a problem with the consistent bag searches and invasion of privacy. Inmates who may struggle with learning are not afforded the opportunity to have extended time after class to intimately receive further assistance. The education programs that are offered limited to sub-par classes that can be received from community college and the most they can leave prison with is an associate’s degree. Also, inmates who are held in the jails are never afforded the opportunity to get and education.

County jails don’t have educational programs, but ironically an inmate can spend majority of their sentence in a county facility. Due to overcrowding in prisons, pre-trial, sentencing and violations many offenders spend a lengthy time in jail and are released with not so much as a GED to show that they attempted to change their old behavior. An evaluation needs to be conducted to determine why there is such a carefree and careless attitude among society when it pertains to incarcerated human beings receiving and education.

There does not seem to be enough advocates in America who are pushing to make sure that incarcerated humans are released with a better quality of life than the one they had upon arrest. There is no difference between someone incarcerated and someone in the “free world” except a mistake. Liberty and justice for all does not just apply to the law but for equality among all of society no matter the circumstance. Everyone deserves to receive education and the opportunity to turn their lives around. Why does it seem as if no one cares enough to stress the subject enough?


A questionnaire should be sent to 20 random citizens of random gender, age, and ethnicity in the top 5 metropolitan areas of the U.S. (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C.) to gauge society’s opinion of education in the prison system. It should have questions that will help the evaluator understand exactly how people feel about why they do or don’t support education in the prison system and their ideas on what can be done to change or fight to keep the current program in place. I also believe that the questionnaire should be 3-5 pages long and leave room on the last page to allow each person to give their own feedback. The data should be collected by an assigned to one elected person in each city (particularly someone who works in an prison in the city with a high position of power) and reviewed, documented, and summarized, then submitted to the researcher to be reviewed.

The questionnaire should be designed with no bias in mind, but to gain an understanding on why society does or does not support education. The results should reflect that society is now becoming modern and accepting that inmates should receive education as if they were in the free world. The information should be reviewed by the board of education for the prison facility and make an effort towards implementing the ideas that they have received from society. It may be easier for the Board to absorb feedback from society because it is a general census compared to inmates whose intentions may or may not be for the best. The only concern that can be foreseen is that the 20 random citizens will not be able to provide the Board of Education for the prison facility with enough similar feedback to gather a general and collective consensus on how society feels. Discussion

Americans have traditional values when it comes to how society works and a general consensus of what is moral and just. Education is seen as the ultimate strive that one makes to become better in life, and one of the most important things needed to succeed in life. Prisoners are seen as cruel inhuman beings who have no care or empathy for anyone or anything, so naturally society would feel that inmates only want to do their time and be released to commit more crime. Inmates are human though as well, and they desire the same things as anyone else. An education should be provided for them just like it is provided for citizens who are not incarcerated, and inmates need someone to stand up and fight for them to receive just that.


Lahm, K. F. (2009). Educational Participation and Inmate Misconduct. Journal Of Offender Rehabilitation, 48(1), 37. Lockard, J., & Rankins-Robertson, S.
(2011). The Right to Education, Prison-University Partnerships, and Online Writing Pedagogy in the US. Critical Survey, 23(3), 23-39. Palmer, S. M. (2012). Postsecondary Correctional Education. Adult Learning, 23(4), 163-169. Rafay, A. (2012). An “Impossible Profession”? The Radical University in Prison. Radical Teacher, (95), 10-21. Sedgley, N. H., Scott, C. E., Williams, N. A., & Derrick, F. W. (2010). Prison’s Dilemma: Do Education and Jobs Programmes Affect Recidivism?. Economica, 77(307), 497-517.

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