Career Development

What Does a Prison Teacher Do?

Find out what a Prison Teacher does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Prison Teacher.

The role of a Prison Teacher encompasses the unique challenge of providing educational programs within a correctional facility, aiming to equip inmates with knowledge, skills, and qualifications that support rehabilitation and reintegration into society. This position requires a blend of teaching acumen and the ability to adapt to the distinctive environment of a prison, fostering a classroom atmosphere that encourages learning and personal growth despite the constraints of incarceration. Through the delivery of a curriculum that ranges from basic literacy to vocational training, the Prison Teacher plays an instrumental role in offering inmates a pathway to constructive change, contributing to their journey towards becoming productive members of the community upon release.

Prison Teacher Job Duties

  • Develop and implement educational curricula tailored to the unique needs and learning levels of incarcerated individuals, including basic literacy, GED preparation, vocational training, and post-secondary education courses.
  • Facilitate classroom instruction in a secure prison environment, employing a variety of teaching strategies to engage students with diverse learning styles and educational backgrounds.
  • Assess students’ educational levels upon entry into the program, setting individual learning goals and tracking progress through formal testing and informal observation.
  • Collaborate with correctional staff to ensure the safety and security of the educational setting, adhering to all institutional policies and procedures regarding inmate movement and behavior.
  • Provide one-on-one tutoring and support for students requiring additional assistance, adapting instructional methods to meet the specific needs of individuals.
  • Organize and oversee educational programming outside of traditional classroom settings, such as library access, educational television programming, and correspondence courses.
  • Engage with external educational, vocational, and community organizations to facilitate post-release opportunities for students, including job placement and continued education.
  • Conduct research and compile reports on the effectiveness of educational programs within the prison, proposing improvements based on current educational trends and the specific needs of the incarcerated population.

Prison Teacher Salary & Outlook

Prison teacher salaries vary based on factors such as educational level, years of experience, type of facility (maximum security vs. minimum), and program funding sources. Specialization in high-demand subjects or possessing unique skills for rehabilitative education can also influence earnings. Additionally, union representation may impact salary negotiations and increments.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,350 ($23.73/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $102,000 ($49.04/hour)

The employment of prison teachers is expected to decline over the next decade.

This decline is primarily due to budget constraints, a shift towards online education platforms, and a reduction in prison populations through criminal justice reform efforts. These factors collectively reduce the demand for in-person educational services within correctional facilities, impacting the need for prison teachers.

Prison Teacher Job Requirements

Education: A Prison Teacher typically holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Psychology, or Criminal Justice, with coursework in special education, sociology, and law often beneficial. While a high percentage have only a high school diploma, advancement and specialization in this field generally require higher education. Subjects taught range from basic literacy to vocational training, necessitating a broad knowledge base and adaptability in teaching methods to meet diverse inmate educational needs.

Experience: Prison teachers often enter the field without prior experience in correctional education. They typically undergo specialized on-the-job training to adapt their teaching methods to the unique environment and needs of incarcerated students. This training covers classroom management, security protocols, and effective communication strategies tailored to a prison setting. Additionally, they may participate in ongoing professional development programs to enhance their skills in providing education that supports rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.

Certifications & Licenses: Prison teachers typically require a state teaching license or certification in education, similar to other teaching positions. Some states may also require additional certifications related to correctional education or special education, depending on the inmate population served. No uncommon or atypical certifications are necessary.

Prison Teacher Skills

Curriculum Development: Designing educational programs for a correctional facility setting demands a comprehensive understanding of various learning styles and the ability to modify content for better accessibility and engagement. Teachers in prisons are tasked with creating courses that educate and rehabilitate, encouraging personal growth among inmates.

Classroom Management: Establishing clear, respectful boundaries and routines within the unique constraints of a prison environment is critical for effective classroom management. Teachers must create a safe, supportive learning atmosphere that encourages participation and fosters rehabilitation, all while adhering to strict security measures.

Conflict Resolution: De-escalating tensions in a manner that balances firmness with empathy is crucial for maintaining a safe and respectful classroom environment. By facilitating constructive dialogue and learning during moments of heightened emotions or disagreements, teachers ensure educational goals are achieved without compromising security or well-being.

Cultural Competency: Engaging inmates from diverse backgrounds effectively requires integrating various cultural perspectives into the curriculum and teaching methods. By creating an inclusive learning environment, teachers foster mutual respect and support the rehabilitation process by recognizing and valuing the cultural identities of all students.

Security Protocols: Following strict guidelines and procedures is imperative for the safety of both educators and inmates. Teachers must remain vigilant and adaptable to maintain the educational environment’s integrity and security without disruption.

Rehabilitation Education: By providing a supportive educational setting, teachers prepare inmates for successful societal reintegration. Tailoring educational programs to meet individual learning needs and barriers promotes personal development and aims to reduce recidivism.

Prison Teacher Work Environment

Prison teachers operate within a unique educational setting, often within a classroom inside the correctional facility. Their workspace is equipped with standard educational tools and technology, albeit with stricter security measures. The environment demands a specific dress code aligning with institutional regulations, ensuring safety and appropriateness.

Work hours might mirror traditional school times, but flexibility can be limited due to the controlled nature of the environment. Interaction levels are high, not only with inmates but also with prison staff, necessitating strong interpersonal skills and emotional resilience. The pace of work and noise levels can vary, largely dependent on the institution’s schedule and the inmates’ behavior on any given day.

Health and safety protocols are paramount, with specific training provided to navigate the challenges of the setting. Opportunities for professional development exist, focusing on enhancing educational delivery within the constraints of the correctional system. Despite the demanding environment, the role offers a unique opportunity to make a significant impact on inmates’ lives through education.

Advancement Prospects

Prison teachers can advance their careers by transitioning into administrative roles within correctional education, such as becoming a program coordinator or education director. These positions involve overseeing educational programs, developing curricula, and managing teaching staff, requiring a deep understanding of both education and the correctional system.

Another path involves specializing in areas of high demand within prisons, such as special education, vocational training, or ESL. Gaining expertise in these areas can lead to roles as lead teachers or specialists, where one can influence curriculum development and teaching strategies on a broader scale.

To achieve these advancements, prison teachers should focus on building a strong track record of successful inmate education and rehabilitation. Demonstrating an ability to innovate within the constraints of the correctional environment and showing leadership among peers are crucial. Engaging with professional organizations related to correctional education can also provide valuable insights and opportunities for career growth.


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