Simon Says

Bringing clarity to the inner workings of our legal system

5 Things to know about federal prisons and education

Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) recognizes that education is important for rehabilitation and reintegration. Teaching certification and standards are regulated by provinces and territories, so programs may differ between prisons. However, CSC does try to maintain a standard level of service and consistency across the country.

Here are some points to know about education in prison:

  • Prisoners’ education needs are determined during the intake/assessment phase. After being brought into the penitentiary, staff will determine the prisoner’s education level. Prisoners with unique learning requirements will receive an Individual Education Plan, and there are adapted programs for prisoners with certain education needs that the Adult Basic Education curriculum cannot accommodate.
  • CSC prioritizes Adult Basic Education, so prisoners with less than grade 12 will have their education programs prioritized. If a prisoner has less than grade 12 or an equivalent, then education is identified as a need in the prisoner’s Correctional Plan. Education may take priority over employment programs, etc., but generally core correctional programs (ICPM, etc.) are the first priority intervention.
  • In addition to obtaining a high school diploma, CSC also prioritizes prisoners becoming fluent in English or French. If a prisoner cannot read, write, or speak in either official language, then they will be referred for language programming. This may be given priority over the prisoner’s Adult Basic Education, since fluency in an official language is generally necessary to complete Adult Basic Education coursework. Prisoners may also be referred for additional language programming where they require English or French.
  • Prisoners may be able to pursue post-secondary education as well. Prisoners with a high school diploma (or equivalent) may be able to take extra secondary credits that are prerequisites for post-secondary programs (e.g. college or university programs). Prisoners may also be able to complete post-secondary programs as well, which are usually done through correspondence. While prisoners working towards their grade 12 attend school for free, prisoners generally need to pay for their post-secondary education.
  • Education in prisons may be different than attending school in the community. CSC education programs operate on a continuous-intake basis, so prisoners can start anytime there is space. CSC prioritizes certain prisoners over others, so someone who is not fluent in English or French may start school before a prisoner needing to finish a few high school credits who has years left in their sentence. So some prisoners may start school quite quickly, whereas others may wait weeks, months, or even years to participate in educational opportunities. The time it takes a prisoner to complete their courses and assignments depends on the prisoner’s needs and progress.
Past performance is not indicative of future results, and outcomes will vary according to the facts of individual cases. This site is intended for information purposes only. None of the information on this site should be considered “legal advice.” Information on this website (including blog posts and answers to frequently asked questions) is the opinion of the author only and is not warrantied or guaranteed to be an exhaustive, definitive, or accurate statement of the law. The proper interpretation and application of the law must always be done on a case specific basis; therefore, you should not rely on the general information on this site as a substitute for proper legal research or the advice of a licenced lawyer.