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Correctional Education

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About Correctional Education

Correctional education is a fundamental component of rehabilitative programming offered in juvenile justice confinement facilities, most American prisons, and many jails and detention centers. Correctional populations are over-represented with individuals having below average levels of educational attainment. Education "behind bars" presents an opportunity for the incarcerated to prepare for success upon release. A wide variety of administering entities operate correctional institutions in the United States, and a wide variety of organizations are the providers of onsite prison education programs. Various federal education programs have supported education in State and local prisons; and in 1991, an Office of Correctional Education (OCE) was created by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, to coordinate and improve these efforts to support educational opportunities in correctional settings. The OCE function currently resides in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). While OCE has a unique coordinating role for correctional education, other administrative units within the Department of Education support and oversee specific programs that are based in correctional facilities.

Federal Grant Programs

Improved Reentry Education

The Improved Reentry Education (IRE) program builds upon the success and lessons learned from OCTAE’s previous investment, Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) program (see below). The purpose of the IRE program is to support demonstration projects in prisoner reentry education that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness. IRE seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals. In September 2015, the Department awarded IRE grants to nine sites:

The grants, whose abstracts are available here, represent a diverse group of applicants who proposed programs ranging from those designed to serve all female populations to those targeting young men of color. Program structures vary from boot camp style programming, to common state wide wrap around services. The Office of Correctional Education will assist the grantees throughout the performance period and they will be provided technical assistance through a contract with Jobs for the Future (JFF). JFF will work to support the success of the IRE grantees by: supporting reentry education programs; providing direct technical assistance to grantees and other providers; assisting Department staff in monitoring IRE projects; assisting grantees to develop evaluation plans including unique processes for data collection and analysis; facilitating conferences; and, establishing online communities of practice.

Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities

In March 2013, The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice awarded three grants totaling $924,036 to adult education providers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Kansas for innovative correctional education programs aimed at helping America’s inmate population make a smooth re-entry to society through education and workforce training. Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) was a one-time discretionary grant opportunity funded by the Second Chance Act, which is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component within the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice. PRSCEO aimed to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders and provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision as well as create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. At the heart of the PRSCEO projects was the Reentry Education Model.

The implementation experiences of the three sites and key lessons learned for linking facility- and community-based education programs are documented in a report, Reentry Education Model Implementation Study: Promoting Reentry Success Through Continuity of Educational Opportunities. The report finds that strong partnerships among education providers and correctional facilities; a focus on transitions into and out of the correctional facility; and educational programs leading to career pathways are among the most important factors in enabling those previously incarcerated to continue their education and prepare for living-wage jobs.




  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • NDTAC— National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Correctional Education
Attn: Sean Addie
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington D.C. 20202


General Resources

The following links are to Web sites, papers and other resources that provide information about Correctional Education. disclaimerDisclaimer

Research on correctional education ensures that current practices are effective and new discoveries and technologies are implemented in correctional education. The following are papers that are helpful in understanding the need for correctional education. disclaimerDisclaimer


FAQs and Contact Information

Q: Where can I get more information on education for prisoners after they are released?

A: "Take Charge of Your Future, Get the Education and Training You Need" is a useful guide for planning for post release educational program participation, and it is also a helpful reference for members of the correctional population on community status (on parole or probation or residing in a halfway house or other community corrections facility).

Q: Are correspondence courses allowed for incarcerated individuals?

A: Policies and systems regarding correspondence courses for incarcerated adults vary by state. To find out if correspondence courses are permitted in your state, contact your state department of corrections. Some correspondence courses advertised for prisoners are scams and are very expensive. Make sure any courses that are used are provided by an accredited and reliable source.

Q: Where can I get more information on correctional education in federal prisons?

A: More information is available from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons.

Q: Can the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated qualify for federal student financial aid?

A: Please consult the "Reentry Mythbuster" on federal student financial aid. This is one among several mythbusters on reentry topics.


Last Modified: 10/12/2023