The importance of education in the prison system

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To define the word "education" would be for one to be enlightened and obtain knowledge through learning. Since I can relate to this topic on a personal level, I found that education in the prison system comes in various forms, such as academic, vocational, drug & alcohol treatment, self-help/support groups, mental/sexual/physical health classes, college courses, and employment training. To take advantage of these fundamental opportunities now, would be an incentive to anyone who is open-minded, willing to change their life, and trying to never repeat this unfortunate experience [of being in prison].

The Department of Corrections (DOC) did a study from 1992-2002 that confirms an average of 50% of all inmates who enter the prison system do not have a high school diploma or G.E.D. and about 75% have no vocational or collegiate education. Another vital statistic is that the recidivism rate of inmates who don't get their G.E.D. and/or participate in educational programs while in prison, are at an alarmingly high rate of 65-75%. These statistics are not claiming that if someone is uneducated or under-skilled they're prone to go to or return to prison, but [the statistics] do imply that one who obtains an education or special training will have a better chance of self-betterment and success upon their release and thereafter if they implement the skills he/she learned in prison.

Having said that, let me briefly describe the most common types of educational programs the DOC has to offer. First and foremost is the G.E.D. classes that help improve individuals' basic academic skills. This gives the individual a chance to earn a diploma and allow them to further their education at a vocational and/or collegiate level. Then there's the drug & alcohol treatment, which educates and gives inmates a better understanding of their addition, [and lets them] learn coping and life skills, as well as techniques to live a sober and productive lifestyle. The DOC also offers a wide range of vocational training programs, such as barber school, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry training, accounting, and computers and printing. [These] are just a fraction of the certified vocational programs available to inmates. Last but not least, the DOC provides a multitude of life skills classes and support groups that educate and help inmates learn more about themselves and how to prevent them from coming back to prison. These programs are known as Violence Prevention, Pre-Vocational [training], Goal Setting, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Loss and Grief [group], Money Management, and other related groups.

How are these educational programs beneficial to inmates? From my personal experience, when I've implemented these programs and education in my life, it has helped inspire me to pursue and achieve attainable goals, which in turn gives rise to my self-esteem, confidence, self-worth, character, respect for others and myself, gratitude, and a sense of purpose in life. In addition, it has also taught me how to utilize my coping skills and react appropriately to life's adversities, [while also instilling] positive morals and values, responsibility, and accountability for my actions. Finally, these classes and programs showed me how to be a positive role-model to my children, family, loved ones, friends, and community!

In closing, I have discovered through research, personal experience, and observation that education in the prison system... is the foundation to a new beginning and a better chance to succeed during incarceration and especially after being released. My personal opinion is to take full advantage of the multiple educational programs that the DOC offers. It will not only be beneficial, prosperous, and advantageous to anyone incarcerated, but also to their loved ones, friends, their community, and society.

-Submitted by Greg Segars
Huntingdon SCI, Pennsylvania


Many prisoners take advantage of educational programs when they are offered and better their lives. In a tough economy, however, educational programs for inmates are often among the first to be cut. That's where organizations like the Prison Book Program step in; in addition to novels, PBP sends test-prep books, dictionaries, and educational materials to prisoners who request them.

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