By George Hook

As stated in PRISON EDUCATUION BASICS 101, Congress has legislated that the Bureau of Prisons provide for the instruction of all persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States, that pursuant to this mandate, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has provided that all its institutions must provide General Educational Development (“GED”), English as a Second Language (“ESL”), adult continuing education (“ACE”), library services, parenting, and recreational programs, and that additionally, all institutions except satellite prison camps, detention centers, and metropolitan correctional centers are to have a Full Educational Program (“FEP”).

Pursuant to that Congressional mandate, the BOP also provides occupational educational courses for all prisoners with vocational training needs at its correctional institutions,  As with FEP, metropolitan correctional centers, detention centers, the federal transportation center, and administrative maximum facility are exclude from this requirement to have occupational education programs (“OEP”). 

The OEP’s stated purpose is to teach specific, contemporary job skills that will permit gainful post-release employment.  Skill accreditation and completion certification are an integral part of each institution’s OEP.  Also, where feasible, each correctional institution’s OEP is to interface with UNICOR industries so that prisoners will have the potential for actual employment using the skill set that has been acquired.

All those at each institution required to provide OEP are eligible.  However, satisfactory completion of GED and ESL would take priority over OEP.  Also, those under orders of deportation, exclusion, or removal may participate in an institution’s OEP only if resources permit after all other eligible prisoners who apply for OEP have been appropriately placed.

Although GED, and ESL are pretty much automatic for those prisoners who need it as determined from a prisoner’s biographical information, OEP placement is not.  A prisoner must request initial enrollment through the Supervisor of Education. Education Staff will determine a prisoner’s academic eligibility for enrollment and deportation status, and notify the prisoner’s unit team of those determinations.  A prisoner must then apply through the unit team for specific placement consideration. The unit team will determine whether the occupational education course is appropriate for the prisoner’s apparent needs.  If eligible for the particular course, the prisoner’s placement in the course, or, if necessary, placement on the waiting list, will be approved.  As with all requests, the “Inmate Request to Staff” form should be used by the prisoner to commence the eligibility and placement process.  It is available from the prisoner’s unit team.

The expected results of OEP are to teach skills to enhance post-release employment opportunities, to provide critical hands-on experience which also contributes to the operation and maintenance of correctional institution, and, where available, to permit apprenticeship programs registered with the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT), U.S. Department of Labor, and meeting BAT’s standards. 

Successful completion of a course of study under OEP may be evidenced by a Certificate, an Associate of Arts Degree, or an Associate of Science Degree, depending on the course of study.  In future Prison Education Blogs, we will address specific ACE and OEP available at specific correctional institutions so that those just entering the federal prison system may attempt to direct BOP placement through recommendations from their sentencing judge, and those already in the system may make knowledgeable requests for transfer based on their educational and occupational preferences consistent, of course, with remaining as close to family, friends, and mentors as possible for purposes of frequent, inexpensive visitation.