Prison Education: How It Works
In Washington, adult offenders who are sentenced to at least a year and a day in custody are placed under supervision of the state Department of Corrections. More than 16,000 inmates are housed at the state’s 12 prisons. Adding those housed in county jails and other state facilities, the number of adult prisoners surpasses 18,000.
Since 2002, the Department of Corrections has contracted with the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to provide educational services to offenders. The board subcontracts with community colleges, including Clark College, to operate these programs. The programs offered include basic education for adults, vocational skills training, job search preparation, and stress and anger management.
With a capacity of 480 offenders, Larch Corrections Center in Clark County is among the state’s smaller prison facilities. The offenders at Larch have been convicted of a wide range of crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, but have four years or fewer left to serve on their sentences.
Many Larch offenders work days for the Department of Natural Resources planting trees, fighting wildfires, or picking up litter. Those offenders can enroll in the evening business class.
— Susan Parrish
Washington’s prison population by the numbers
• 16,683 people incarcerated in Washington prisons.
• 92.5 percent male; 7.5 percent female.
• 71.7 percent white; 18.1 percent black; 4.6 percent American Indian/Alaska Native; 3.7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.
• 38.2 average age.
• 57 percent of all male offenders score below the ninth-grade level in basic literacy skills.
• 71 percent of all female offenders score below the ninth-grade level in basic literacy skills.
• 60 percent of all offenders were unemployed before they were incarcerated.
• 75 percent of all offenders lack job skills and vocational training.
Source: Washington Department of Corrections
About Clark College programs at Larch Corrections Center
• 2013-2014: $284,050.
• Funding: State, not federal funds.
• Private grants pay for associate degrees and college-level academic programs.
• Adult education: Adult basic education, high school equivalency and computer basics.
• Vocational skills: Automotive services and small-business management.
• Life skills: Job search and stress and anger management.
Certificates issued 2013-2014:
• Automotive services: 51.
• Small-business management: 23.
• High school equivalency certificates: 32.
To Learn More:
Learn about educational programs available at state prisons at