What is the highest level of education that can be done in prison?

In the US, the stereotype is that prison is full of minimally educated people (There are some exceptions, of course, like the Unabomber, who had a PhD and had been a university professor, but that was before he went to jail). Apparently lots of prisoners do get GED’s in prison, and some manage to complete correspondence/distance education bachelor’s degrees from institutions like Excelsior (AKA Regents), which offer distance education. What is the highest that an incarcerated person could go, practically, assuming they have the drive, skills, knowledge, and perseverance to complete what they start? Does a person doing 20 years in prison have a reasonable chance of coming out with a Master’s degree if they have the drive and skills? Has anyone done a PhD in prison, or become a respected academic researcher publishing in refereed journals while behind bars, or been granted an appointment as a lecturer, professor, or other academic position contingent on getting out of prison?

I know some programs that require laboratory or clinical experience might be out because they might not be allowed laboratory or field access, so I’d expect that you might not be able to complete an MD or a degree in research chemistry while in the big house, but I don’t see any reason why a prisoner couldn’t go into history or literature, since all those really require are books/journals, pens, paper, and feedback from professors.

How about a mental hospital? Is it possible in any meaningful sense to increase your stature in academia while in a mental hospital? There’s an old joke about a mental patient who showed unexpected engineering skills and when questioned, said that he was crazy, not stupid.

According to this site:

I have no independent confirmation, the article was written by Patrick himself.

In the UK, Patrick Magee, while in prison, completed a PhD examining the representation of Irish Republicans in ‘Troubles’ fiction

I’ve seen offenders who completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Texas prisons. No PhDs, though. No MDs or JDs either, for that matter.

Wouldn’t the potential be limited by the fact that most online/correspondence BA/MA/PhDs cost $$$$$. And prisoners who earn money usually get several orders below minimum wage. Whereas GEDs are cheap. Wouldn’t they need an outside person to help them out somehow?

I thought I read somewhere that Valery Fabrikant continued to do research in prison. The Wikipedia article seems to agree.

Possibly, though they could have savings, or might be able to get a scholarship or student loans (can you get student loans while in prison?)

Yes, but he had a PhD already. The question is, it is possible to earn a PhD from prison. The programs I am familiar with require actual attendance and a final oral exam. I guess it could be carried out at the prison, but I’ve never heard of it.

Anything requiring lab work would obviously be impossible.

For drug offenders: doesn’t it ask a disqualifying question?

It wouldn’t necessarily be through a a correspondence course. There used to be a few colleges in NY that operated programs inside the prisons, and I believe there is still at least one.

If you’re interested in non-American jails-here’s a terrorist who earned a Phd from an Egyptian University, while imprisoned for life in an Israeli jail.
oops! apparently the link doesnt work.
Google “marwan Barghouti +phd” to see the article from the archives of the Jerusalem Post newspaper

I used to work in a Community College in the 80s, in the long distance/prison education thing. One of the convicts, a wife-murderer, got at least a Master’s. It’s in my head that he got a Doctorate, but, I can’t remember for sure.
They could get FAFSA grants, since they had no income. I’m not sure what the current state of any of this is, however.

Some states will pay the costs of education for prisoners (under the thinking that an educated person has more chance for a job & is less likely to commit crimes again once released), and some state colleges reduce/eliminate tuition charges for prisoners.

[Of course, first you have to be able to read. Which most prisoners can’t.

Most stats I’ve seen indicate that 60%-75% of prisoners are functionally illiterate (can’t comprehend 4th grade reading texts). And it’s even worse for male juvenile prisoners – 85%-90% of them can’t read.]