Pomp and Circumstance at the Prison

By Christina Marfice  Image courtesy open-site.org Ontario, Oregon — Seated in the visitors center at Snake River Correctional Institution, Angelica Carrasco, face split by a wide grin, craned her neck to search for one face in the crowd of blue-clad men

Read More

Inmates Use Jail Time For Education


Johannesburg – More than 11 600 prison inmates are participating in adult education and training (AET) programmes, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Wednesday.

“Prisons are now correctional centres of rehabilitation,” Ndebele said in a statement.  Image courtesy www.statssa.gov.za

“Offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.”

He said his department was going all-out to make sure that inmates could become productive citizens on their release.

In April, Ndebele announced the compulsory registration for all inmates without a qualification equivalent to Grade Nine to complete the AET’s levels one to four.

“In September, 302 offenders, who completed various education and skills development programmes, graduated at the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre,” the minister said.

“This included 49 inmates who participated in the artisan development skills programme and qualified as artisans.”

Read More

Florida Prisons Offer Online Education

Pensacola, FL (PRWEB) August 06, 2013 

Dr. Howard Liebman, CEO and Superintendent of Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), announces that the school district will soon expand its operations as an official provider of online education for inmates in Florida prison facilities. The Florida Department of Corrections (FLDOC) named SHCOE as an official provider of online education for inmates in Florida prison facilities in February of 2012, and the program went live at the Madison Correctional Institution in April and at the Lowell Annex in May of that year. These programs were the first online secondary education programs at any correctional facility in the United States and have produced 68 graduates to date.  Image courtesy online-high-school.findthebest.com

Now, preparations are underway for an impending expansion into five additional facilities.

“From the time we received our AdvancED/SACS accreditation in 2011, we had this goal of serving inmates in correctional facilities,” Dr. Liebman said. “I believe our leading-edge online program offers an effective approach to lowering recidivism and preparing inmates to rejoin society in a productive manner. SHCOE’s goal is to be the leading provider of education and career training for corrections facilities across the country.”

Read More

Boston University Prison Education Program

By Christopher Zoukis

Since 1972, Boston University has been offering prison inmates a chance to obtain a college degree while incarcerated. According to the Prison Studies Project, more than 280 students have obtained bachelor’s degrees through this program, and some even continue on to get master’s degrees, as well. Prison education has numerous benefits, and Boston University recognized this decades ago.  

Overview of BU Prison Education Program

The Boston University Prison Education Program offers inmates a chance to earn a Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies. Anyone who completes this program is considered a graduate of Boston University (BU), which is a distinction that even people who have never been in prison would benefit from. The point of BU’s Prison Education Program is to not only offer a college degree, but also turn inmates into contributing members of society upon their release.  Image courtesy bu.edu

BU offers a wide selection of classes for prisoners, allowing them to take part in courses that interest them and further their education at the same time. Just some of the approximately 600 subjects available include the following:

Read More

Prison Education and the Benefits to Taxpayers

By Christopher Zoukis

As prisons across the United States continue to experience overpopulation, there has been increasing concern among taxpayers regarding the ultimate costs of incarcerating so many individuals. Critics point to unsustainable incarceration numbers, huge costs and static crime rates as reasons why the criminal justice system needs to be seriously reformed.  Image courtesy prisonstudiesproject.org

A vocal minority of experts and media analysts, who see prison education as the best route to reform the system, is seeking to increase public awareness and challenge the status quo.

Critics of the criminal justice system can usually agree on several things: costs are way too high, too many people are crowded into jails and prisons, and far too many felons who are released end up committing crimes and reentering the criminal justice system. Developing ways to reform the system typically focus on one of these areas, such as lowering the overhead costs of running prisons, the privatization of prisons, changing laws to reduce the number of incarcerated persons or focusing on reduced rates of recidivism. Gaining public support for any of these initiatives can be difficult, however, as there are always concerns of both costs and the impact on public safety.

The challenges of reducing recidivism

Proponents of prison education have focused their attention on lowering recidivism rates. Doing so, they argue, will alleviate prison crowding and save taxpayers considerable amounts of money. To adequately reduce recidivism, however, the focus must be on why a majority of felons end up returning to jail.

Read More

Join the Discussion: PrisonEducation.com Welcomes Your Input

By Christopher Zoukis

We at PrisonEducation.com would like to extend the invitation to our readers to contribute to this pro-prison education forum which we’ve created.  We are true believers not only in the power of education to transform those in prison, but in the power of communal involvement.  We heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a boy,” only we took it one step further.  We believe, “It takes a community to advocate for change.”  We realize that while we can, and do, write about prison education topics daily, that this was never meant to be a one-way discussion.  We aim for you to like the content and be compelled to make your own contributions.  Photo courtesy missouricure.org

From the start, many of us came to the field of prison education through a guide.  I know that my guide was a man by the name of Jon Marc Taylor, Ph.D.  Dr. Taylor is the author of the Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition (Prison Legal News, 2012).  He is a state prisoner who has written extensively on the need for more funding for prison education programs and how prison education holds the key to reforming those in prison and giving them the tools to support themselves and live healthy, crime-free lives.  While I’ve never met Dr. Taylor in person, I have had the privilege of corresponding with him.  And I’m proud to be able to say that through his shining light, I have felt the motivation to do more and to be more, not for myself, but for those around me whom I have the duty of supporting and inspiring to do and be more.

Much as Dr. Taylor has served as a source of inspiration to me, I hope that PrisonEducation.com will be a source of inspiration for you.  I hope that you’ll read something and really connect with it.  I hope that you’ll use it to further your own practice and advocacy.  And, a bit more trivially, I hope that you’ll comment, share, like, and tweet about it.  Because this shows us that we are doing a good job.

Read More

BU’s Prison Education Program Thrives Despite Pell Grant Ban

By Emily Payne

Boston University students know their acronyms, and from their college names to where to grab some lunch, it seems as if everything is shortened to a cryptic, insider code. Here’s one that is less known: PEP. Type that into the BU search bar and you’ll find pages on the Pep Band, Professional Education Programs, and Pre-Engineering Programs. But “bu.edu/PEP” will take you to a place where students are less likely to visit: the BU Prison Education Program. Turns out that Boston University is one of the leaders of prison education in Massachusetts, a sector of higher education that has been struggling to stay afloat.

Back in 1994, Congress passed a major crime law amendment which banned prisoners from receiving Pell Grants, a major source of federal aid. The misconception of the time was that giving prisoners Pell Grants reduced the amount of aid available to non-criminals. In reality, according to The Real Cost of Prisons Project, only 25,000 of 4.7 million available Pell Grants had been distributed to prisoners in that year, which comes out to about 0.5% of the funds. Nonetheless, because of the controversy surrounding the cause and the many misconceptions of its use, the aid diminished.

But why should we care if criminals get an education, you say? After all, we all stayed out of prison (for the most part) so that we could go to a university, receive our degrees, obtain successful jobs, etc. Well, according to a report of the Institute of Higher Education in 2005, higher education for prisoners “remains a crucial strategy in efforts to reduce recidivism and slow the growth of the nation’s incarcerated population.” Basically, a higher education provides an outlet for prisoners and gives them options upon release. They leave prison in a better position to hold a job and become an upstanding citizen, rather than revert back to the lifestyle that led them to prison to begin with.

Read More

Finding Meaning as an Inmate Instructor

By Andrew Chen

As an inmate tutor at a federal prison, I get one of three responses when I answer another inmate’s inquiry as to where I work.  In order of increasing frequency these are: first, a shrug and a nod — a somewhat reluctant acknowledgement that being a tutor is probably a commendable thing to be doing; second, a “Why would you want to do that?  I would not have the patience to attempt to teach a bunch of half-wits who don’t want to learn anyway”; or, third, by far the most common response, “For real?  I really need some help with my math and essay writing.” 

So why did I choose to become an inmate tutor, and was it a good decision?   The answer is one that requires some context.  It took me three years to move through the U.S. judicial system from arrest to arrival at my designated federal prison facility; three years of being confined to a succession of wholly indoor, steel and concrete cell blocks with perhaps a hundred other anxious federal inmates and a couple of televisions for company; three years during which there was no opportunity to do any meaningful work, or to participate in any educational or vocational courses.

It’s fair to say that I’m not a typical inmate.  I’m a workaholic with two doctorate degrees, and an almost compulsive drive to always be doing something meaningful.  Watching TV and playing cards all day really didn’t cut the mustard for me.  Thankfully, I was able to find enough suitable books through the prison book carts and from friends outside, to study literature and history, two subjects I had never really had the time for since leaving school.  Still, it felt like a rather self-absorbed pursuit, and I yearned to do something that would allow me to make more meaningful contributions to my newfound community, the federal prison community.

Read More

Hartford Foundation Supports Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education with $5,000 Grant

By Christopher Zoukis

On March 11, 2013 the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving announced their awarding of a $5,000 grant to Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education.  This most generous grant, which was made possible through the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation, will sustain Wesleyan University’s prison education outreach through December 9, 2013. 

Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education was founded in Connecticut in 2009 and authorized as a two-year pilot program.  The program initiated at the women’s York Correctional Institution, and later expanded to the men’s Cheshire Correctional Institution.  Both prisons are a part of the Connecticut Department of Corrections.  In 2011, the Center for Prison Education was reauthorized to provide services for an additional five years.  This was due to the resounding success of the program, both from the incarcerated student’s perspective and that of Wesleyan University’s perspective. 

The prison education program at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut has offered full classes to the male incarcerated students, while it has operated in a more limited capacity at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution.  Due to both program’s tremendous successes, the Center for Prison Education hopes to offer full credit classes to the women at York Correctional Institution by the end of the year.  “We were inspired by the women at York,” said Alexis Sturdy, a fellow at the Center for Prison Education.  “We wanted to bridge the gap with full classes.”

Read More

GED Teacher Shortage for Incarcerated Students is a Social Crime

By Dianne Walker

Students that earn their General Education Development diplomas while incarcerated have a lower rate of reoffending because they check out of their cell with a tool that insures economical productivity. Inmates that return to society with a diploma in hand are more likely to be hired even with a criminal record history.

Earning a GED while incarcerated at Kent County, Grand Rapids MI is a viable option for rehabilitating inmates in a short amount of time because their stay is limited.  

A GED diploma is the magical entry to the working world because it noticeably demonstrates proof an individual is willing to change. The recidivism rate is dramatically lowered for ex inmates when they have the capacity to care for themselves and their families. 

The downside of this seemingly easy solution for a complicated problem is there is a shortage of GED teachers.

Kent County, Grand Rapids, MI Community Corrections has experienced the impact of a scarcity of GED instructors with only one part time teacher, one tutor, and two youth advocates work with incarcerated students to help them earn their GED. This is a crime because obtaining a diploma for inmates increases their chances of a successful future in the outside world. A GED diploma is the key to employment and avoiding a life of crime.

Read More