All federal prisons have some form of educational programming for the inmates housed at their institution. Typically, the prison’s Education Department is where educational programming is centered. This could be a stand-alone building, a wing of a larger building, or a special room which is used for educational purposes. Regardless of the department’s structure, educational programming is available to all inmates at the institution. Most forms of education provided through this department are available at no cost to inmate participants. The four general forms of education available in all Federal Bureau of Prisons’ facilities are GED preparation, English-as-a-Second Language (ESL), Adult Continuing Education (ACE), and Correspondence Education. Program offerings will depend upon the local institution. What follows is an overview of each form of education.
The GED is the official high school diploma equivalent and, as such, is the primary educational offering within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. GED classes usually consist of a single staff educator who oversees several inmate tutors, who handle the majority of the one-on-one teaching. Since GED classrooms are divided by general academic ability (e.g., 1st-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade), instruction is not performed on a collective basis, but on an individual basis. Each student works out of their own textbook (targeted to their personal academic level), and completes assignments on a personal assignment sheet.
All inmates who have not previously earned a GED or a high school diploma are required to participate in the BOP’s GED program. Generally speaking, inmates are required to take GED courses until they earn their GED, or complete 240 hours of instruction and opt to sign out of the program. In the latter situation, they will receive some internal restrictions (e.g., lowest pay grade in prison), but they will not be sanctioned for a disciplinary infraction. If the inmate elects, they can stay enrolled in the GED program after reaching the 240 hour mark of instruction. If an inmate without a GED refuses to even complete the 240 minimum hours of instruction, they will receive an incident report and be formally sanctioned for “refusing to program.”