Four Obstacles Prison Students Must Overcome

You should be commended for encouraging education to your loved one who is incarcerated. This pursuit is no easy journey, and it will require your support. A 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative states 25% of formerly incarcerated people have no high school credential at all – twice as many as in the general public. It is crucial to consider the obstacles any potential prison student will face and how you can help them achieve high school credentials.

Four Identified Obstacles

  • Qualifications: Prison educational offerings often have limitations beyond your control. Check with the specific institution to find out qualifications needed for an inmate to qualify for Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses. In most cases, the incarcerated individual must have either a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED). Most institutions have strict guidelines regarding the amount of time an individual has left to serve in their sentence before taking a CTE course. To ensure the training is current, and because of the tremendous limitation of space, it can be as low as seven months remaining. While anyone can sign up for certificate programs or enroll for a GED, there is a lengthy waiting list. It is crucial to make sure your loved one has sent a request to be enrolled in school or join programs that offer certificates. It is a good idea for you to contact the prison school or a case manager to make sure their request was received. Many people don’t realize that a loved one can call and talk to the school principal or a teacher. They also can call or email someone in case management that is working with your partner.
  • Limited technology: Once a student is part of the school system, they will face limited technology. Most institutions still have not advanced technologically and do not have email, tablets and have limited internet offerings. That means that the student will have less opportunity for collaboration, less ability to track their progress, and often use less updated computers with limited software. Typically, learning is an ongoing process enhanced with research outside of the classroom. You may need to provide that additional research for the student by sending or sharing it with them when you visit or phone. It is also tough to obtain books outside of class that aid students in their studies. The library checks out dictionaries, thesaurus, books of quotations, and other reference material, but they do so for only two weeks at a time, and there can be a waiting list. If at all possible, it is an excellent advantage for a student to have their own copy.
  • Being sent to segregation: Segregation results when someone who is incarcerated is accused of breaking a rule, is a danger to others, becomes an escape risk, is placed there by a doctor, or is part of an investigation. Regarding the effect it has on the individual’s schooling, you and the individual must realize it can be extremely detrimental. Segregation students cannot come to school, so they are set back in their studies. They can only have limited property and little contact with you. If found guilty, the individual is kicked out of school and will have to wait up to a year to get back into their program, depending on the institution. This is also problematic because inmates who leave segregation after serving their penalty are sometimes placed in different institutions where they would have to begin the enrollment process all over again. Sometimes in prison, certain scenarios cannot be avoided, but that is why a loved one reminding an individual to keep their mind and time focused can become a great aid.
  • Distractions: A student’s last obstacle is what every individual in society faces and you, the loved one, encounters daily. School is a commitment of time and a lifestyle change. Prison school is often interrupted by lockdowns, counts, unexpected cell changes, sickness, depression, stress, and anxiety. The student is going through the same kind of chaos as a full-time student in society. Recreation time is cherished in prison, a chance to get outside or even make an extra phone call or have time to visit with others. An incarcerated individual in school gets less recreation time. If a student in prison decides to cut school and go to the weight pit or play cards with friends it could lead to too many absences, causing school removal and waiting to get enrolled again for at least six months.

By knowing these obstacles, it will help you and your partner be able to communicate more effectively and focus on ongoing learning. Serving time together means learning the system even when neither of you can change it.

Article referenced:

New report, Getting Back on Course, shows that prison permanently hinders education