The Underworld

Prison Education


The System

Famous Crime






In the year 1821, primary schools were exsistant in the prison system of France. It was not until the year 1840 that the Ministry of the Interior decreed education extended to all incarcerated convicts, both young and old. This arrival of convict education came about at the same time primary education was becoming available for all members of French society.

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However, the law did not always parallel the practice. Many prisons lacked the required teaching personnel to give a decent education to the prisoners. Even though each individual institution only required one teacher, in one out of every three prisons the guards or surveillance personnel performed teaching duties (O'Brien). The difficulty in obtaining a teacher was that they needed to be certified, which was quite rare. Also, the teachers were constantly watched and observed by the guards, almost putting them into the role of prisoner themselves.

Even with a teacher present in the system, high quality education was not. Because there was only one teacher per prison, the classes were ridiculously overcrowded. And when the teacher was not teaching, they worked as record keepers or clerks, leaving no time for attention to individual inmates.