I have seen inmates learn various vocations and skills while serving their sentence in prison, but I didn’t think they can also get free education while locked up!

Perhaps, you thought so too. However, over the years my perception about this has changed, as I have come across people who believe that inmates can actually get a free college degree while serving their sentence. 

Do Inmates Have Access To Education?

Many think it’s kind of absurd for inmates to have access to free education, while in the case of “good citizens of the law,” they would have to take out loans to further thiers. An irony of life isn’t it? I guess it is.

Now, after interactions with quite a few persons, I could bet that inmates could get any level of education for free, not until an acquaintance of mine was sentenced to 10 years in prison for impersonation leading to fraud. According to him, since he had already obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, he thought: why not further in Accounting…

However, he soon realized it won’t be possible to pull through with such a plan, as it turned out that getting a free education in prison isn’t all that simple as most people think it is. Thus, my reason for the blog post: can you get a degree in prison?

inmate education degree

This blog post clear the confusion about getting a degree as an inmate, and will answer the following questions:

  • Can you get a degree in prison?
  • What are the education opportunities available in prison?
  • The value of prison education


If it’s for an undergraduate degree, then yes you can. Inmates in both federal and state prisons can register for a degree program, although it is not an easy road going with such a plan.

The first requirement to getting a degree in prison is finding a university that has a program specially for prisoners via snail mail correspondence.

This would have been a lot easier if universities still offered programs for prisoners via snail mail correspondence. But that was long in the past, as these programs have since been moved online.

Do Prisoners Have Access To The Internet?

Sadly, inmates don’t have access to the internet, therefore, there’s no chance they can register for online courses.

It is true that the internet in the hands of inmates, can lead to perpetration of more crimes however, the internet is also a very easy medium for inmates to get a college degree. So I think a medium through which inmates can access education via the internet should be devised (though with maximum supervision).

I have come across some state prisons which had to go as far as partnering with a local college or university to be able to provide degree programs for inmates, and others that force their inmates to find such colleges or universities on their own. But how’s that possible without internet access. Unfortunately, that is the case in most prisons.

If you are serving your sentence in a prison that has no partnership with a local college or university, then your only choice is to write friends and family members to help find a program.

And even when you’ve found a degree program that you like, one that can be accessed via snail mail correspondence, there’s the problem of financing such a program.

In order to access any college degree program designed for inmates, such programs must first be paid for by the inmate or their family. There are not many inmates I know can afford such, having no access to discounts or grants or student loans.

For graduate degree programs, it is more like a mission impossible venture. Even if you find one, the money to pay for it becomes another headache.


Because a large number of inmates do not possess a high school diploma or GED, both federal and state prisons have deemed it fit to provide inmates with at least this level of education in past couple decades.

As a result, most states make it a must for inmates without a diploma to enroll for one, instead of working a prison job. The federal and state government have also subsidized these programs thus, making it free for any inmate who enrolls.

Can Inmates Learn Vocational Programs In Jail?

Inmates can also get to enroll in vocational programs that can help them acquire skills they can use to secure a job after they’re done serving their sentence.

A lot of these vocations are available to choose from, but still dependent on the prison the inmate is being held up in.

That acquaintance of mine was able to learn carpentry at the end of the day, among other vocations like building trades, horticulture and so on.

Apart from vocational programs, inmates can also take up special classes in financial planning, how to draft a resume, and mental health.


Education plays a very important role in the rehabilitation of inmates. Prison education has been proven to criminal tendencies in inmates as well as shape them to become better persons that can contribute economically to society.

It is however sad that prison education for inmates is very limited, especially if you already have a college degree. After serving their sentence, it’s even more difficult to further their education as they don’t get access to student financial aid.

Inmates who are lucky to access prison education, turn out to be in a better position to secure jobs than inmates who weren’t lucky enough.

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