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

By Randy Radic  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, we’ve decided to go public and share what has transpired in the past two months. We do

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Prison Administrators Should Support Advanced Education

By Derrick Falkenberg The value of education for today’s prisoners 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 well-paying positions, the edge goes to those with a greater understanding. These times have shown

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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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Selection and Retention of Inmate Instructors

Many in the world outside of prison wouldn’t believe that talent lies behind bars. The thought of a prisoner possessing a professional doctorate, being an English major, or even managing an advocacy network would be much too taboo to contemplate.

Luckily for us, we know the truth of the matter: that there are a number of highly qualified inmates which can be put to good use in leadership positions. The question then becomes how to find them and how to maintain their interest.

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Literacy, Education and Rehabilitation Act

 In the past month much has come about through legislative action. The crack cocaine law has been passed giving hope to thousands and reducing the previous disparity, the courts have ruled against the overcrowding in California prisons yet again, and Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va) has introduced House Resolution 2343, a resolution which could impact the release dates of thousands upon thousands of federal prisoners. I’d almost say that we have come to a legislative perfect storm. The forces of economic instability, common sense, and action have merged to create…a very hopeful place, if you are a prisoner in America.

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