Higher Education: What Type of Education Is Available to Inmates While They Are In Jail?

Higher Education: What Type of Education Is Available to Inmates While They Are In Jail?

Why are educational opportunities important within jails and prisons? There are many benefits of introducing educational classes into jail, including lower recidivism rates. For inmates who are reentering society after incarceration, one of the most challenging, yet essential parts of reintegration is obtaining a job. Education plays a key role in obtaining jobs and pursuing other vocational opportunities. 

For inmates who haven't earned a high school diploma or lack vocational training to get a job, finding stable employment is difficult. For this reason, many city and county jails have developed educational programs to help inmates complete their GED or pursue further educational opportunities after they've completed their sentences. We'll dive deeper into the kinds of educational opportunities available to inmates housed in city or county jails.

The Difference Between Prison and Jail

It's essential to understand the difference between prison and jail, as this difference affects the types of opportunities available to inmates. When an inmate has been sentenced to a stay in a county jail, the sentence is typically short. The timeline may range from a month to an entire year. However, for lengthier sentences, inmates will be sent to prison. This timeframe is usually more than a year for these types of sentences. 

In prisons, there are generally many different types of inmate higher education opportunities. With longer sentences, inmates will have plenty of time to choose and pursue long-term educational programs. Some of the opportunities might include basic literacy programs, GED programs, college degrees, vocational training, rehabilitation programs, and life skills classes.

Because county jails house short-term inmates, the opportunities for education, employment, and other programs are usually quite limited compared to prisons. However, because of the need for educational programs among inmates, many city and county jails have developed a few educational programs aimed at curbing recidivism. Some of the most common educational programs available in county jails are GED classes and college courses. 

The Positive Effects of Educational Opportunities in the Jail System

Pursuing inmate higher education has been shown to have a positive impact on inmates' futures, as it gives them the opportunity to gain employable skills and accomplishments. Studies have shown that inmates that pursue their education while incarcerated have a lower chance of reoffending than those who didn't pursue their education. While jail inmates don't have as much time to complete educational programs as those housed in prisons, there are still opportunities to earn some college credits or complete a GED program. 

The Kinds of Educational Opportunities Available at County and City Jails

The kinds of educational opportunities available at the city and county jail levels vary depending on the facility. In some places, inmates may have access to a few different kinds of educational opportunities, including a GED program and college courses. Since city and county jails typically only hold inmates for a short period of time, many inmates don't complete the full programs. Even though inmates may not have the chance to finish their program, the education can still provide them with the skills and confidence they need to continue their education once released. 


What is a GED program? This type of educational program serves to benefit those who have not graduated from high school. Once this program is completed, a GED acts as a high school equivalency diploma. Depending on the inmate's educational background, this program may be completed in only a couple of months. However, the average length of time to complete this program is around three months. 

There are many benefits to obtaining a GED. When an inmate earns a GED, it opens up a lot of closed doors in the professional world. Most jobs, even entry-level positions, require a high school diploma. The GED can also help with inmate higher education. If inmates want to pursue college or further career training after release from jail, earning a GED or high school diploma is the first step on the path to success.

College Credit Classes

Inmate higher education is essential for those who are looking to turn their life around while in jail. Though county jails can't offer long-term degree programs, some jails offer college credit classes that can transfer to a degree. For inmates who are serving longer sentences at a county jail (around a year), completing a couple of college-level courses can earn credits toward a degree once released. 

This type of educational program will benefit those who have completed their GED or have their high school diploma. Though this educational opportunity may not suit everyone, it's a great way for inmates to build skills at the college level, gain knowledge, and prepare themselves for higher learning after their sentence. 

The Importance of Educational Opportunities for Inmates

Even though city and county jails typically only house inmates for short-term sentences, having educational opportunities is a great way for inmates to better their situation. Though jails typically don't offer the same kinds of opportunities for courses and programs as prisons, there are a few short-term programs available in some jails. From earning a GED to earning college credits, having educational programs in jails can set inmates up for a successful path once released. 

However, due to the short-term nature of jails, the kinds of educational opportunities vary depending on the individual facility. For some jails, there may be a few different programs and courses available, while other jails may not offer any programs. If you want to check whether a specific jail offers educational opportunities, find the one you're looking for with our jail search option.