PRISON EDUCATION: STUDENT FICTION

Like the Back of My Hand

By Charles Burdell (a pseudonym at the author’s request)

I am immortal. At least I think I am, in theory. I’m standing on the small promontory, pondering this idea perhaps for the thousandth time and trying to enjoy the sensations: The sound of the waves breaking below, the smell and taste of the salty air, the feel of the ocean breeze on my face and in my hair, and the vibrant mix of reds, blues, greens, and violets that fill the sky as the sun sets behind the ocean. I come here often. I have not, as of yet, found the courage to throw myself down onto the rocks below.  Image courtesy of bedfordstmartins.com

I don’t mean to give the impression that the life I lead is somehow unsatisfactory, quite the opposite. I am the envy of most any man: Rich and powerful beyond imagination, with a wife who is beautiful, intelligent, and caters to my every whim; my mistress who is even more beautiful still, and even more compliant; and a multitude of servants to provide anything my wife or mistress cannot. My home and the surrounding estate are so vast that neither can be fully explored in less than a day’s time and both have a full-time staff devoted solely to their upkeep. I own a fleet of cars, a private jet, several boats, and even a helicopter along with the various crews, pilots, chauffeurs, and other attendants that are required to maintain and operate them all.

Even if my hypothetical immortality should prove true, I am not indestructible, this I am fairly certain of – as if I can be certain of anything anymore. I look down again at the ocean below me. Looking up and down the shoreline from the small marina dotted with various water craft to the forested hills that encompass my estate, I find nothing that is not mine, for I am truly Master of all that I see. I have attempted to become intimately familiar with my surroundings in the time that I have resided here: They are just as familiar as the back of my hand, if you will.

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Education in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis

All federal prisons have some form of educational programming for the inmates housed at their institution.  Typically, the prison’s Education Department is where educational programming is centered.  This could be a stand-alone building, a wing of a larger building, or a special room which is used for educational purposes.  Regardless of the department’s structure, educational programming is available to all inmates at the institution.  Most forms of education provided through this department are available at no cost to inmate participants.  The four general forms of education available in all Federal Bureau of Prisons’ facilities are GED preparation, English-as-a-Second Language (ESL), Adult Continuing Education (ACE), and Correspondence Education.  Program offerings will depend upon the local institution.  What follows is an overview of each form of education.  Image courtesy en.wikipedia.org

GED

The GED is the official high school diploma equivalent and, as such, is the primary educational offering within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  GED classes usually consist of a single staff educator who oversees several inmate tutors, who handle the majority of the one-on-one teaching.  Since GED classrooms are divided by general academic ability (e.g., 1st-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade), instruction is not performed on a collective basis, but on an individual basis.  Each student works out of their own textbook (targeted to their personal academic level), and completes assignments on a personal assignment sheet.  

All inmates who have not previously earned a GED or a high school diploma are required to participate in the BOP’s GED program.  Generally speaking, inmates are required to take GED courses until they earn their GED, or complete 240 hours of instruction and opt to sign out of the program.  In the latter situation, they will receive some internal restrictions (e.g., lowest pay grade in prison), but they will not be sanctioned for a disciplinary infraction.  If the inmate elects, they can stay enrolled in the GED program after reaching the 240 hour mark of instruction.  If an inmate without a GED refuses to even complete the 240 minimum hours of instruction, they will receive an incident report and be formally sanctioned for “refusing to program.”

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