Most American Prisoners are routed into ged programs, which are more focused on reading comprehension than actual high school courses.Most American Prisoners are routed into ged programs, which are more focused on reading comprehension than actual high school courses.

How Prisoners Can Obtain their GED and High School Diploma

Most (70%) American prisoners have not completed high school, which is the first step they must take if they wish to pursue higher education.

Inmates who don’t have their high school diploma are required to participate in GED courses in their prison’s Education Department. The GED is the official high school diploma equivalent, and prisoners who refuse to participate in their GED are actually subject to sanctions, including incident reports if they refuse to go to class once enrolled.

Inmates also have the option of pursuing their actual high school diploma via mail correspondence, but they must use their own resources to do so.


While the GED is the official high school diploma equivalency, it is not equal to high school diploma classes since it does not provide subject-specific knowledge. Instead, it teaches prisoners basic reading, reading comprehension, writing, and arithmetic skills.

After arriving to the prison, each inmate will be out on a waiting list to take their GED. Once their name comes up, they will be assessed to determine their academic abilities, and placed in a class that matches their current level. These classes are available at all levels, such as pre-GED classes, English-as-a-Second Language GED classes and many others for those with special learning needs.

After they progress enough in these classes, they are allowed to sit for the official GED examinations. If they pass, they are issued a GED certificate.

High School Diploma Correspondence

While having a GED does qualify prisoners for advanced education, it places the GED recipient at a significant disadvantage since it doesn’t fully cover the various subjects someone would learn in a regular high school.

It is highly recommended that if possible, prisoners pursue an actual high school diploma through a correspondence program or take college preparatory courses to better prepare them for higher levels of education.

High school diploma correspondence programs allow prisoners to earn a real high school diploma by taking real high school classes through the mail. If a prisoner dropped out of school as a Junior or a Senior, it should only take a year or so to complete the coursework, and it will help prepare them for the rigors of college-level study.


There are three factors to consider when evaluating a correspondence high school diploma program:

1. The program’s accreditation: All high school correspondence programs should be regionally accredited. The same regional accreditation bodies that accredit colleges and universities also accredit high school diploma programs, it’s just a different branch of the agency. This not only assures program quality, but also ensures the degree will be accepted by colleges and universities if the student decides to continue at the college-level after receiving their high school diploma.

2. If the coursework can be completed from prison: All courses in the high school correspondence program must be able to be completed via the U.S. Mail. This includes course assignments, examinations proctored by the incarcerated student’s education department, and any hands-on assignments have to either be waived or be able to be completed in the prison environment.

3. If the program awards a high school diploma upon program completion: The program should award a high school diploma upon program completion. There are programs out there which are designed to allow regular high school students to accelerate their studies, but don’t award a diploma because the diploma is then awarded by the student’s local school district. This will not work for the incarcerated student. Incarcerated students should only enrol in correspondence high school programs which actually award a high school diploma upon program completion.

Recommended High School Correspondence Programs for Prisoners

While there are several high school diploma completion programs to choose from in the correspondence study arena, we have put together what we feel to be the best programs available to prisoners. Note that if a student is visually disabled, that they should contact the Hadley School for the Blind since they are the only high school diploma program that we know of that offers courses in Braille. Here is our list of recommended programs:

Schools Offering High School Correspondence Programs for Prisoners