Goodbye zero tolerance: Program aims to cut 'school-to-prison pipeline'

By Miranda Leitsinger, Staff Writer, NBC News BOSTON, Mass. – At Charlestown High School, where many students come from high-crime neighborhoods, an innovative program employs a surprising method to help keep teens in school and out of trouble with the law: Encouraging them to talk to each other. Image courtesy On one recent Friday,

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Trunk Space to Host Benefit

By Alejandra Armstrong After an exhausting week, Jessica Robinson met friends for sushi Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. And while waiting for a table at the restaurant, Robinson had a drink. She had another at the table, then had a sip of beer but didn’t drink anymore because she knew she would be driving. Robinson drove

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National Dialogue on Mass Incarceration

From Diane A. Sears

PHILADELPHIA, PA (USA) – SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 — A National Dialogue on Mass Incarceration will take center stage at the Joseph Priestley District’s Racial Justice conference, at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday, November 3, 2013 in the form of a “Teach In”.  Image courtesy Diane A. Sears

The “Teach In” will occur on Sunday afternoon from 12:30 P.M. through 4:30 P.M.   A stellar line-up of participants headlining  the event include Eric Sterling, author and President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C.; Mark Boyd, Esquire, President and Chief Executive Officer of Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia; Michael E. Erdos, a sitting judge in the Court of Common Pleas for the City of Philadelphia; Portia Hunt, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling Psychology in Temple University’s Department of Psychological, Organizational & Leadership Studies in Education;  and J. Jondhi Harrell, a Social Justice and Reintegration Thought Leader and Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Returning Citizens.  A condensed presentation and discussion of “Broken On All Sides,” an award winning and nationally acclaimed film produced by Matthew Pillischer, Esquire will precede the panels.

Panels and “breakout” groups will allow participants to interact with formerly incarcerated persons who have established themselves in society or are presently engaged with turning their lives around and those of their colleagues.  

Mr. Harrell, a Temple University MSW student, and major architect of the forum, said he was pleased that the Teach-In will “bring together legal professionals, ‘returning citizens’ creative thinkers on Mass Incarceration, social justice; reintegration educators, social entrepreneurs, legislators, religious and academic institutions, social service professionals and providers, health care professionals and providers, and concerned citizens throughout the region who have key pieces of the  puzzle to resolve issues directly and indirectly related to the New Jim Crow in the United States.”

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More Colleges Announce Online-Only Course Methodologies

By Christopher Zoukis

The other day a good friend passed along a few letters which several schools had sent him concerning college-level correspondence education.  He was digging through the Distance Education and Training Council’s (DETC) directory of accredited schools and wrote to several concerning his own studies.  As a result of his letters, these schools responded that they either no longer — or never — offered paper-based college-level courses.  The goal of this post is to simply alert you as to which schools solely offer online-only course methodologies.  This way you won’t waste time contacting them on behalf of your incarcerated students.

The schools which informed him that they are online-only are as follows:

~ Aspen University

~Columbia Southern University           

~Texas Tech University

~Washington State University, Global Campus

~University College & Extension Services, California State University at Long Beach

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CLEP Ends Paper-Based Testing Option: Incarcerated Students Left Out in the Cold

By Christopher Zoukis


     A reader of my text, Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security, recently notified me that the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) has ceased offering their paper-based examination option.  This means that CLEP testing is now technologically unavailable to virtually all incarcerated students, since most of these students lack access to internet connected computers or testing centers.

The letter from CLEP reads, in part: “Unfortunately, the College Board has decided to discontinue the paper and pencil testing program as of December 31, 2011 due to decreasing test-taker volumes and an increase in program maintenance costs. . . Since CLEP paper and pencil testing will be discontinued, you may want to investigate taking a correspondence course as an alternative solution to fulfill your educational goals. . . Once again, we at the College Board thank you for your interest in taking CLEP exams and we wish you the best of luck in your future educational endeavors.”

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LIFE Project-Prison Education for Women Inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

Located outside of Wilsonville, Oregon, lies the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inside of this correctional facility is a very special prison education program for women inmates called-LIFE (Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs.)  The program has been developed to build business and pro-social skills for incarcerated women.

The core of the LIFE program addresses self-employment and micro enterprise development for women after they are released from the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inmate/students are taught skills that can be used in business and self-employment. LIFE helps their students to create productive lives after release and to establish self-sufficiency and economic stability for themselves and their families.

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Partakers College Behind Bars Education Program

Partakers College Behind Bars program provides opportunities for incarcerated inmates in the state of Massachusetts to obtain four-year college degrees while doing time in prison.

Their mission statement says that Partakers “works to help advance the rehabilitation of inmates and to bridge the divide that separates those inside and outside prison. Through it’s College Behind Bars mentoring program, inmates build trusting relationships, enhance skills critical to completing a college degree, and significantly increase their chances for success when returning to the community.”

Partakers has access to a number of Massachusetts state prisons, serving as a link between prisoners and society. They currently have more than 300 volunteers who enter prisons as mentors and tutors, supporting over 100 prisoners. These prisoners often take on leadership roles inside the walls, as well as outside when they return to their communities.  

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Prison Pet Partnership Program

It has long been thought that animals and pets can have very therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits for humans. The Prison Pet Partnership Program is accomplishing this on several levels.

The Program rescues and trains homeless animals to become service dogs for persons with disabilities. In addition, the Prison Pet Partnership Program operates a boarding and grooming facility where the women inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington are trained with this vocation upon release.

Many of the women inmates find gainful employment in the pet industry, including Pet Care Technician Certification, levels One and Two, through the American Boarding Kennels Association. In addition to training, boarding and grooming dogs, the women inmates gain clerical skills by working in the office. In order to receive these valuable skills, inmate employees are required to spend a minimum of two years with the Prison Pet Partnership Program, which is located within the walls of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.

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The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program

Imagine you are in a formal college and that you have the opportunity to take your classes within prison walls and that your classmates are incarcerated prisoners? The very innovative program The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program through Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
brings college students together with incarcerated men and women to study together, as peers, only the college setting is behind prison walls.

Once a week, for an entire semester, 15-18 outside college students attend class in prison with a like number of prisoners. All of the participants, both outside and inside, work together on projects, reading from the same texts, writing the same papers, being equal in all discussion groups and, in the final month of the semester, the students work as one to complete a group class project.

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The Fortune Society-Building People, Not Prisons

In our society of overcrowded prisons and drastically cut funding for prison education, it is hopeful to see an organization whose mission it is to support successful reentry into society and to promote alternatives to prison incarceration. Many inmates who are incarcerated have made mistakes in their past and have paid for their mistakes by serving their time in prison. The Fortune Society helps inmates to become positive, contributing members of society.

The Fortune Society was founded in New York state to help reduce recidivism by offering non-traditional reentry services such as: Alternatives to Incarceration, drop-in-services, employment services, education, family services, health and housing services, substance abuse treatment, transitional services, recreation and lifetime aftercare.

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