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Education in Prison
ONC Editorial

Apr 14, 2023

This Explainer article discusses illiteracy and education in the American prison system.

Education is a top priority among the country’s population. It is commonly seen as a way to increase one’s social status and to help a person become more successful. That being said, not all American citizens have a fair chance when it comes to getting an education. Illiteracy has impacted the prison population in the past and continues to impact this population in the present. 

The Literacy Project Foundation estimates that three out of five people in prison are illiterate; according to an article by Michael Sainato for Observer, the research estimated that 75% of the country’s current prison population is illiterate. The Federal Bureau of Prisons mandates general literacy programs for prisoners who struggle to read and write and for prisoners who do not have a high school diploma. Prisoners also have the option to take GED courses, as well as to complete regular high school work via mail, but these resources are not required or enforced in all states. Currently, several states, including Delaware, Montana and Kentucky, do not offer any form of an educational program for inmates, and 42 states provide less than 10 programs. Prison education programs have since been on the decline due to budget cuts averaging around 10%, but some prisons have had cuts as large as 20%.

To see all sources consulted/reviewed/interviewed for the purposes of writing this article and/or to learn more about this article's author, click here.

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