Encouraging Education

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your loved one is to encourage them to pursue educational interests during their incarceration.

Individuals who decide to focus on education while incarcerated are reducing their potential of becoming a repeat offender. By committing to work with your partner towards achieving educational pursuits, you could focus on developing competitive skills and qualifications, which will center on reentering the labor market while decreasing their chances of recidivism. 

Recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. According to a 2018 study, 5 out of 6 state prisoners were arrested within 9 years of being released. However, an analysis titled Does Providing Inmates with Education Improve Postrelease Outcomes? discovered that “inmates participating in correctional education programs were 28% less likely to recidivate when compared with inmates who did not participate in correctional education programs.” 

Most prisoners have some type of prison job, requiring time management they may not have needed in the past. If they enter the General Educational Development (GED) program or a Career & Technical Education (CTE) class, sometimes called a shop or referred to as job training classes, that is considered their full-time employment by the prison. Pursuing a GED or a shop course offers the benefit of 10 days off their sentences per month and they are paid daily. This is an excellent opportunity for you and your partner to revisit time management to make sure it focuses on their educational pursuit.

Things to Know

Additional ways to provide support for a prisoner who has embraced education include understanding and providing encouragement through the following challenges: 

  • In some circumstances, education enrollment is based on qualifications. Through conversation, learn what interests your loved one and provide support by researching and creating an action plan to assist the inmate in reaching those qualifications. 
  • For prisoners older than 21, education is voluntary unless mandated by a judge. Prisoners with a mandate or under the age of 21 are only required 120 days of education. Ideally, your loved one has committed to education. If they have not, provide constant encouragement to overcome the potential for dropping out (many drop out even though only 120 days are required).
  • Be aware that prisoners who wish to embark on higher learning often require testing. This is not different from taking college courses for those not in prison, students take the ACT or SAT and complete an application for acceptance. Help the prisoner understand those requirements and the necessary preparation that leads to success.
  • Even with the studies done that show education decreases the likelihood of recidivism, many prisons have limited classes available, in part due to a lack of trained instructors. Discuss with your loved one their interests and ask what classes are available. High-demand classes, job training classes and shop courses include welding, cooking, auto repair, woodworking, HVAC, and commercial driving.
  • If a class is not available, offer to research prisons that do provide classes with topics suited for your loved one. Help your inmate understand what steps are needed to make a transfer request to the prison with the classes that interest them.

Serving Time Together

Education is an on-going process that takes time and dedication. It is likely your loved one will be overwhelmed with the effort needed to complete classes. Most prisoners have some type of prison job, requiring time management they may not have needed in the past. Additionally, many prisoners may be frustrated by the inability to take classes that interest them unless they are nearing their release date. 

Books to help:

  1. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
  2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  3. Overcoming Frustration and Anger
  4. Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope, and Healing for Inmates and Their Loved Ones
  5. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
  6. Managing Time: The Inmate’s Guide To Serving Time Productively

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A prisoner who completes a GED, earns certificates of completion, or passes job training classes is not guaranteed anything. This is an opportunity for you and your loved one to focus on something outside of serving time. Something that will decrease the likelihood of recidivism and increase their chances of becoming productive citizens.

“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin,” Tony Robbins.




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