BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Publication Education and Correctional Populations

Caroline Wolf Harlow, Ph.D.

January 1, 2003    NCJ 195670

Compares educational attainment of State and Federal prison inmates, jail inmates, and probationers to that of the general population. Educational attainment is also examined for various demographic groups -- including gender, race/ethnicity, age, citizenship, and military service -- and for other social and economic factors. Reasons for dropping out of school are compared for jail inmates and the general population. The report describes the availability of educational programs to inmates in prison and jail and their participation in educational and vocational programs since admission. Findings are based on analyses of more than 10 different datasets from both BJS and the U.S. Department of Education.


  • 68% of State prison inmates did not receive a high school diploma
  • About 26% of State prison inmates said they had completed the GED while serving time in a correctional facility.
  • Although the percentage of State prison inmates who reported taking education courses while confined fell from 57% in 1991 to 52% in 1997, the number who participated in an educational program since admission increased from 402,500 inmates in 1991 to 550,000 in 1997.

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1995 Survey of Adults on Probation (SAP)

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