By Christopher Zoukis
Effectively evaluating inmates who are interested in becoming classroom tutors or instructors is a challenging — but — essential task. This is because the health of your very classroom depends on finding the right fit, an inmate who is experienced enough to teach the subject at hand, motivated enough to continue putting in the time and effort day after day, and passionate enough to be patient with incarcerated students who might not be very accessible, friendly, or open to learning. You’re looking for a needle in a haystack. But with several concepts in mind and a roadmap in hand, this process can turn from a tumultuous experience to one of certainty and clarity.
What follows is that roadmap. These are some of the components you should consider when evaluating applicants for inmate instructor positions.
Prior Experience: In my mind, prior experience is the top selection criteria. Teaching in the prison context is not an easy task, and inmate learners are not always the most willing of students. As such, an experienced hand is usually best. If an inmate has had a positive prior teaching experience in the correctional setting, this person brings those prior skills with them to the table. Likewise, those who have taught outside of prison are a tremendous resource since most people don’t go into the teaching profession for the money. As such, they likely had, and might still possess, a passion for teaching. This can only be a plus for your classroom.