Education programs

Education is important as it increases offenders' chances to successfully transition back into society. Improved literacy skills may improve an inmate's ability to take part in correctional programs.

Goal and process

The Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC’s) Education Programs:

  • address offenders' educational needs
  • increase offenders' basic literacy, social cognition, and problem solving skills
  • prepare offenders for participation in correctional programs, and
  • provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to gain and maintain employment and lawfully reside in the community upon their release

The education process includes:

  1. a review of the initial education-related assessments
  2. individual education planning
  3. enrolment and participation in the delivery of education programs
  4. ongoing assessment of progress
  5. reporting

Education standards and teacher certification

In Canada, teaching certification and standards are regulated by the provincial and territorial ministries of education. As a result, CSC's education programs may vary. However, CSC maintains a standard level of service and consistency. This standard allows offenders to access the same or similar programs in institutions across Canada.

Because CSC's education programs fall under provincial legislation, only provincially-certified teachers deliver them.

Assessment of education needs

CSC determines education needs once an offender enters into custody. Although the actual type of educational assessments may vary across provinces, CSC staff complete assessments to determine offenders' education level.

All offenders with a grade level below grade 12 or its equivalent will:

Continuous intake and program length

CSC offers education programs on a continuous-intake basis. This means inmates may begin a program any time there is space available. There are no set end dates for program assignments in education. The length of time that an offender will take part in these programs will depend on their needs and progress.

Types of education programs

Adult basic education

The Adult Basic Education (ABE) programming is CSC's education priority. It covers Grades 1 to 12 (or equivalent). When the inmate completes Grade 12, they receive a secondary school diploma (or equivalent). Provincial ministries of education regulate ABE curriculum. Within ABE, there are four program levels that correspond to an inmate's education level. While there are some provincial differences, program levels are generally grouped as:

  • ABE I = Grades 1 to 5 (Grade 6 and under in Quebec)
  • ABE II = Grades 6 to 8 (Secondary I and II in Quebec)
  • ABE III = Grades 9 and 10 (Secondary III and IV in Quebec)
  • ABE IV = Grades 11 and 12 (Secondary V in Quebec)

Adapted adult basic education

The Adult Basic Education – Adapted Programs are education programs that have been adapted for inmates with specific education needs that cannot be accommodated in the traditional Adult Basic Education curriculum. They correspond to each of the four adult basic education levels.

The Adapted Adult Basic Education Program provides offenders with the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • gain and maintain employment, and
  • lawfully live in the community upon release

Although CSC’s education priority is the obtainment of a high school diploma, this may not be attainable for all offenders, particularly those in the adapted education programs. Thus, the adapted education programs focuses on:

  • basic literacy
  • social cognition
  • employability skills, and
  • problem solving skills

CD 720 Education Programs and Services for Inmates outlines the criteria for exceptions.

English or French as additional language programming

CSC refers inmates who are unable to read, write or speak in either official language (English or French) to the appropriate additional language programming.

General education development

The Atlantic Region provides inmates with the opportunity to get a General Education Development (GED) certificate. The GED program allows inmates to show that they have skills equal to a basic secondary education. The GED program consists of five different sections:

  • social studies
  • science
  • reading
  • mathematics
  • writing

Post-secondary prerequisites

The Post-Secondary Prerequisite Program allows inmates the opportunity to earn additional secondary credits that they require in order to participate in post-secondary studies, vocational programs, or employment. This program is for inmates who already have a high school diploma (or equivalent).

Post-secondary education

Offenders may pursue post-secondary education while incarcerated. The Post-secondary Education Program allows inmates to learn a trade or profession or update trade qualifications. Inmates who want to take post-secondary courses must meet the university or college's academic requirements. Courses are usually completed through correspondence with community colleges or universities.

Generally the inmate must pay the cost of their own post-secondary education. You can find more information on CSC’s education programs in:

Libraries and computers

All CSC's institutions have libraries. Inmate libraries support all interventions. They also address inmates' recreational, cultural, spiritual and educational reference needs. The institutional library has a unique role in the successful reintegration of offenders. It can be a resource for information, education and enrichment. It can also be a place for recreational reading. Some institutions also have book clubs and/or writing groups.

CSC welcomes the donation of new or gently used books that support inmates’ literacy and academic upgrading at all of its institutional libraries from staff and the public. These include:

  • fiction books at various reading levels
  • large-print fiction and non-fiction books
  • graphic novels
  • grammar books
  • dictionaries (including multi-lingual and picture dictionaries) and thesauruses
  • legal reference material
  • formal skill mastery and learning materials
  • popular learning materials such as the "For Dummies" series

For more information about how you can help support literacy, contact:

Inmates have access to designated computers in all institutions. CSC allows offenders to use institutional computers in a controlled manner for:

  • learning
  • work
  • programs
  • legal needs, and
  • recreational use

These computers are stand-alone. They are not linked to CSC's security systems, external networks or the Internet.

In 2002, CSC discontinued offender-owned computers. Offenders who owned in-cell computers before this decision continue to have them. These offender-owned computers are also stand-alone.

CSC is piloting computer literacy initiatives, such as Microsoft Office Certification, in some regions.

CSC continues to explore ways of introducing digital technology to meet reintegration goals. It introduces it into different components of correctional interventions, including education.

CSC will pilot a digital education environment for inmates at one site. It will access online course content and integrate technology support in education programs. This pilot project:

  • builds on the 2015 Evaluation Report: Offender Education Programs and Services
  • responds to technological advances that support daily life, particularly in pursuing employment

The system delivers and manages instructional content via:

  • computer-based learning
  • course administration
  • tracking, and
  • reporting of inmate/student work

It will enable CSC to:

  • respond to the challenges the prison/community technological gap presents for CSC programming, and
  • simultaneously support offenders as they safely transition:
    • from institutions to communities, and
    • during the period of supervision

2015 Evaluation Report – Offender Education Programs and Services

Policy and legislation

Commissioner’s directives and guidelines

CD 700 Correctional Interventions applies to all staff involved in correctional interventions. It outlines their responsibilities and the procedures associated with the correctional intervention process.

CD 720 Education Programs and Services for Inmates describes education programs and services in our institutions and the roles and responsibilities of those involved.

CD 764 Access to Expressive Material describes what form of expressive material offenders may have access to and the limitations.


Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Sections 3, 3.1, 4, 5(b), 15.1, 26, 76, 77, 79 and 80 outline information about programs for offenders.

Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, Section 102 states that CSC must include program requirements for inmates in their correctional plans.

Provincial education legislation includes:

Date modified: