Prison Education News Founder Under Fire: Federal Bureau of Prisons Attacks Christopher Zoukis

By Randy Radic  Christopher Zoukis We at Prison Education News are concerned regarding several recent events at FCI Petersburg, the medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where  founder Christopher Zoukis is incarcerated. Due to the importance of this matter,

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Prison Author Under Fire: Federal Bureau of Prisons Retaliates Against Christopher Zoukis

Image courtesy Over the past month Federal Bureau of Prison officials at the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg have issued incarcerated author Christopher Zoukis a series of incident reports in a seeming attempt to censor his critique of the prison

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Courtesy of Senator Chris Murphy

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that in response to concerns that they raised over the last two months, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has now indicated that it has altered its plan to turn the only secure facility for women in the Northeast, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Danbury, Connecticut, into a facility for men.  BOP now intends to construct a new facility for female inmates that will be located near the FCI and maintain a satellite camp for women close by as well.   Image courtesy

“This is excellent news for the children and families of inmates in the Northeast, and we applaud the Bureau of Prisons for hearing our concerns and making this decision,” the senators said. “The original plan put forward by BOP to transfer female inmates out of Connecticut would have nearly eliminated federal prison beds for women in the Northeastern United States, dramatically disrupting the lives of these female inmates and the young children they often leave behind. We are pleased that will no longer be the case.”  

Previously, BOP had announced that it would convert the FCI from a secure facility for women into a men’s facility.  This conversion would have left one of the most populated regions of the country without a secure facility for women.  While BOP still intends to turn the existing secure facility into a men’s facility, it now intends to turn the existing minimum security Satellite Camp for women located near the FCI into a low security facility for women.  It will also maintain a minimum security camp facility for women near the new FCI by constructing a new building next to the FCI. 

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Prison Administrators Should Support Advanced Education

By Derrick Falkenberg The value of education for today’s prisoner is increasing like never before. With the economic downturn, the uneducated are at a distinct disadvantage and uneducated prisoners are even worse off. As sizeable groups of citizens compete for

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Federal Inmates Allowed To Utilize MP3 Player Service

By Christopher Zoukis

In an innovative move by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), federal inmates are now allowed to purchase MP3 players from their institution’s commissary and individual MP3 files through their housing unit’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS) computers.  This system is offered via a federal contract with Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) and has now been implemented system-wide in federal prisons.  Private contract prisons which house federal prisoners (e.g., Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group) are not included in this service’s coverage population. 

Inmates may purchase from their institution’s commissary a SanDisk 8GB Clip+ for the price of $69.20.  These MP3 players, which have been modified to not allow for voice recording or the use of the micro SD slot, hold around 1,800 songs, contain a rechargeable battery, a FM radio, a built-on plastic clip, and come equipped with earbud style headphones.  They are very small, only 2″ high x 1 1/4″ wide (Because of the compactness of the device, inmates tend to make holding cases which can be hung around their necks to ensure the safety of the device).

After purchase, inmates are allowed to activate the MP3 player on the TRULINCS computer system via their personal TRULINCS account.  Once activated, each MP3 player owner will be allowed to browse music selections for a maximum of 60 minutes per day (in 15-minute time intervals), listen to up to 30 music samples a day (in 30-second samples), save songs to their wish list for future purchase, and purchase songs.  Through this system inmates can also delete previously purchased songs and, therefore, delete them from their MP3 players.

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In Search of Post-Secondary Prison Programs — Ray Brook

By George Hook

I did not want to blow the whistle.  I just wanted to search for available post-secondary prison programs.  I thought the best place to start was with any statement in that regard made by the Bureau of Prisons’ overseer, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).  What I found was this statement from Bridges to Opportunity–Federal Adult Education Programs For the 21st Century Report to the President on Executive Order 13445, U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education, dated July 2008 at p.18:

“Federal Prison Inmate Scholarship U.S. Department of Justice, Inmate Paid Postsecondary U.S. Department of Justice Education ProgramRay Brook, N.Y. The purpose of the Inmate Paid Postsecondary Education Program is to provide inmates incarcerated at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution opportunities to enroll in postsecondary education programs and receive college credits from the North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, N.Y [3 miles away]. The program serves approximately, 50–60 federal inmates housed at the federal correctional institution. Federal inmates are not eligible to receive Pell Grants to fund postsecondary studies. The Education Department at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution has established a partnership with the local community college to offer an on-site college program. Professors provide instruction to the inmate in the prison setting. Inmate students receive community college credits that are transferable to the State University of New York. Inmates pay for the costs of tuition and books from personal funds. The program enhances educational program options for inmates, allowing them to pursue a college degree without using federally appropriated funds.”

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By George Hook

As stated in PRISON EDUCATUION BASICS 101, Congress has legislated that the Bureau of Prisons provide for the instruction of all persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States, that pursuant to this mandate, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has provided that all its institutions must provide General Educational Development (“GED”), English as a Second Language (“ESL”), adult continuing education (“ACE”), library services, parenting, and recreational programs, and that additionally, all institutions except satellite prison camps, detention centers, and metropolitan correctional centers are to have a Full Educational Program (“FEP”).

Pursuant to that Congressional mandate, the BOP also provides occupational educational courses for all prisoners with vocational training needs at its correctional institutions,  As with FEP, metropolitan correctional centers, detention centers, the federal transportation center, and administrative maximum facility are exclude from this requirement to have occupational education programs (“OEP”). 

The OEP’s stated purpose is to teach specific, contemporary job skills that will permit gainful post-release employment.  Skill accreditation and completion certification are an integral part of each institution’s OEP.  Also, where feasible, each correctional institution’s OEP is to interface with UNICOR industries so that prisoners will have the potential for actual employment using the skill set that has been acquired.

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Three Hots and a Cot

By Robert Tashbook

I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer, staying in exclusive resorts, eating meals fit for a king. An ad in a writing magazine finally provided my big break. They wanted neophyte travel writers seeking to get into this exciting business. The only requirement was to visit an appropriate location and write a review. They would select the best one and offer the writer a contract.

Luckily for me, I was currently at a fine establishment — part of a national chain with over 100 locations — offering both lodging and dining. Hopefully then, this review will launch me on my new career.

Security seems to be the watchword at this resort. The burnished aluminum security bars on the tinted windows are more for show, but the twenty-four hour armed guard at the front, the multiple razor-wire topped fences, and the roving patrols really drove the point home. Unfortunately, when I learned most of the fifty-foot tall perimeter guard posts were unmanned, I began to doubt that the advertised “500,000 volt electric fence” was strong enough to do more than roast marshmallows.

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Inmates or Sardines?


By Sean Shively

The suspense in the courtroom is thick enough to cut with a knife. I am waiting for the jury to come back into the courtroom with their decision on my case. A door opens and the twelve jurors start filing towards their seats. My stomach starts to cramp and I feel nauseous. The jury takes their seats and a deathly silence permeates the courtroom. The absence of sound is so deafening that when the judge’s gavel hits his desk, the reverberation causes my heart to palpitate.

The judge turns to look at the head juror and asks, “Has the jury reached a verdict?” The head juror responds, “Yes, Your Honor, we have.” The judge then asks, “What is the verdict?” The head juror states, “We find that the defendant is guilty on all counts.” The judge turns his head and looks into my eyes. I feel sweat starting to bead on my forehead as the judge states, “You have been found guilty of Forgery, a class C felony.” He then asks me, “Are you ready to be sentenced at this time?” I respond, “Yes, Your Honor.” He looks down at his papers for a moment then he looks back up at me and states, “I sentence you to six years in the Department of Corrections.”

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Stop, Stop, Now Go: Is it Ok to be Successful Now?

By Christopher Zoukis

Over the past several months a nagging inconsistency has presented itself.  This is of a generally stated goal of preparing inmates for reintegration back into society through education, training, and rehabilitation, but requiring them to wait until the gates open to actually practice any of the skills we ostentatiously are attempting to facilitate.  Is it just me or is this a crazy concept?

When I first started writing…well, I didn’t first start writing.  I started by learning the alphabet.  Then, after mastering individual letters, I worked on understanding words.  From there I progressed to sentences, punctuation, paragraphs, letters, and now, research papers and books.  This is at least how the process of learning works for me; concept, specifics, practice, perfection (eventually).  Irrespective of my experience, common practice in correctional facilities would have you believe otherwise.

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