By Christia Mercer On a recent Friday night, a student and I were playing dead on the cold linoleum floor of a prison. The woman standing over us was proudly proclaiming the cold-blooded murder of her no-good husband and his unwilling mistress. As a professor at Columbia University, I’ve asked lots of students to act
By Lauren Mazzo and Emily Hull / Just Ithaca For many modern-day high school students, graduating with a college-level degree is simply the next logical step in life; but for the 15 students of Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP) who will graduate on Dec. 10, it means a better chance at a jail-free future. CPEP is
Enrolling in college from prison is no easy task. There is the bureaucratic red tape to overcome, an endemic culture of failure, and prison staff members who are more interested in punching a clock than engaging in any form of actual work. But fear not, with persistence, dedication, and a bit of planning, a college education obtained while in prison is possible.
This article presents the five essential steps to enrolling in college from prison. By following these steps, any incarcerated students can learn their prison’s regulations concerning correspondence education, locate quality correspondence programs, obtain authorization to enroll in the courses, and order their first set of college courses.
Step One: Review Prison’s Applicable Policies and Regulations
The first step when engaging in any type of major project is to learn the rules, policies, and procedures surrounding it. This is doubly so in prison, where regulations strictly dictate what is permitted within the confines of the correctional facility, and when breaking these rules and regulations can have very serious, life-altering consequences.
Unfortunately for inmates, there is no clear-cut way of learning what the policies and procedures are for enrolling in college from prison. Generally speaking, a lack of information is the rule. With this in mind, the inmate should go to their law library (if their correctional facility has one) and search for any regulations or program statements (sometimes called “policy statements”) on correspondence programs and college correspondence courses (sometimes called “post-secondary correctional education courses”). In prison systems like the Federal Bureau of Prisons, every facility has an electronic law library where this information can be easily obtained. In prison systems that lack law libraries, the inmate should approach education staff and inquire about any policies and procedures concerning correspondence programs.