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Preparation Prison Life After

07. Activities

Education

The BOP provides inmates within each of its institutions with library services necessary for educational, cultural, and leisure activity. The library has a wide variety of reading materials and inmates do a pretty good job of keeping it organized.  Most libraries are generously stocked with books from local community donations, books that are shared by inmates after they have read them and previously read periodicals (newspapers and magazines). At some prison camps, the community book mobile comes by the facility and inmates are allowed to request and check out books.

Inmates teach most of the educational classes in federal prison.  To become an instructor, inmates must provide proof that they have a college degree or are competent to teach others a specific skill.  Proof of college degree must be in your file in order to teach or you must have some certification relevant to what you would teach.

Inmates develop their own programs.  Stock traders, finance professionals, doctors, physical trainers, building contractors, CPAs, horticulturists and lawyers are all represented in the prison population. Each can petition the education department with a class request that they will teach over a period of weeks and inmates will sign up for the classes.  Inmates may not be able to teach on a subject that relates to their criminal charge(s).

Correspondence college courses are allowed under BOP policy but you must have permission from the Post Secondary Education Coordinator (PSE).  However, do not expect the BOP to help you get enrolled in a class. According to the BOP Policy “Inmates will be provided with the opportunity to enroll in postsecondary education programs.”  First, you have to pay for the classes from sources outside of the prison (you cannot use money from TRULINCS account).  Secondly, you have to do all the work to set it up and most of that work should have been done prior to arrival at prison.  If you are unable to get it done prior to showing up to prison, someone on the outside is going to have to help you.

Another challenge to correspondence courses is that they require that exams be proctored, which means that someone on BOP staff (Education) would have to supervise and sign off that you honestly took the exam.  Most staff will work with you but it will take time.  You can persevere and get it done, but it is going to take some work.

At some prisons, outside college professors come in and offer general classes to inmates.  These could be on writing skills, career counseling or history.  It just depends on the relationship that the prison education department has with the local community.

If an inmate does not have a high school diploma, or proof of a high school diploma, then they are required to take classes toward passing the high school equivalency test known as the GED.  If inmates do not participate in classes, then Good Time can be taken away.  It is not necessary that an inmate pass the GED, only that they attend classes meant to help them pass the GED.  So skipping classes, yes attendance is taken, can result in Good Time credits being taken away (more days added on to prison term).

The BOP offers eligible inmates occupational education programs to participate in occupational education courses for the purpose of obtaining marketable skills designed to help look for employment after prison.  Skills like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, can all be a part of the educational program.  However, these require supervision from staff and with prison populations over capacity, there is little free time for staff to properly supervise these types of activities.  Also, these programs are typically reserved for inmates who have been in prison many years.

You can also participate in programs offered by community volunteers who visit the prison.  Within the institutional setting, volunteers can provide a variety of services - advisors, interpreters, marriage and family enrichment, substance abuse education, literacy, spiritual growth, recreation, health education, fitness, vocational training, and many others. While providing these valuable services, volunteers reinforce the mainstream societal values staff convey daily.

There are a number of programs available and if you cannot find one that fits your needs, you can probably initiate it with your own efforts.