Christopher Zoukis is a huge supporter of the struggles of trans gender people in prison, especially after a recent incident with a prisoner in Virginia. That’s why I was so happy to contribute this article in Vice: http://www.vice.com/read/the-uphill-battle-to-make-prison-safer-for-trans-women If youRead More
Before the painting program was adopted into the prison system in 1994, the only art displayed inside America’s correctional institutions was graffiti.
Today the legacy of inspirational expressions by inmates lives on.
William Borden, a former inmate walks through the narrow hallways of Eastern State Prison located in Philadelphia. Borden recalls the barbaric atmosphere of the prison when he first arrived for a brief sentence in 1967.
The medieval dungeon style penitentiary has gone through a transformation since the time it depicted a punitive environment that inmates feared. The prison has been converted into a museum.
Hand painted milieus now embellish the walls of prisons throughout the country that once confined prisoners who resided the buildings as punishment for their deviant crimes. Provincial cityscapes both conventional and fantasy decorate visiting rooms. Photographs of inmates are inserted into the scenery as mementos for family and friends.
Filmmaker, David Adler is a collector of selected art work of the outside created on the inside. Adler is sharing with the public his unique collection through November 30, 2013 at Eastern State Penitentiary, the museum that was once a prison. Adler’s collection is appropriately named “Visions of the Free World.” The museum is visited by everyone, from art enthusiasts to former guards and inmates.
With the United States’ criminal justice system facing extraordinary challenges, including crowded jails, busy courtrooms, state budget pressures and high recidivism rates, criticism continues to mount. However, few solutions seem to gain traction.
Prisons are seen today as a place of retribution for crimes committed, instead of an opportunity to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for productive lives outside of a jail cell. If the criminal justice system were to focus on rehabilitation by educating prisoners, society as a whole would benefit immensely.
Most people who enter the criminal justice system come from a troubled background with little to no family or community support. By locking these prisoners up with very few productive tasks, having them form mutual bonds with other prisoners based on frustration and anger and then releasing them into a world in which they have few positive role models and no practical job skills, the system practically seems designed to encourage recidivism.
Offering prisoners educational opportunities redesigns this system by giving prisoners a path out of the recidivism cycle. Education within prison can range from traditional classroom formats—such as having prisoners work toward a high school equivalency degree (GED)—to technical skills that require training and even certification. Having a GED can help a former prisoner land a higher paying and more rewarding job, or lead to further educational opportunities. Likewise, technical skills are marketable and lead to well-paying careers.
By Christopher Zoukis
Prison education, also known as Inmate Education and Correctional Education, is a very broad term that encompasses any number of educational activities which are engaged in from inside a prison. These educational activities include both vocational training and academic education in which prisoners can participate. The goal of such activities is to prepare the prisoner for success outside of prison and to enhance the rehabilitative aspects of prison itself.
Educational programming offered inside prisons are typically provided and managed by the prison systems in which they reside. Funding for the said programs are provided through official correctional departments’ budgets, private organizations (e.g. colleges, nonprofits, etc.), and the prisoners or their families if the prisoner is seeking an education through a correspondence program.
Educational opportunities can be divided into two general categories: academic education and vocational training.