Rio Salado College Distance Learning for Inmates

Rio Salado

Rio Salado College offers distance learning classes for incarcerated students in printbase or mixed media formats. Incarcerated Distance Learning Schedules may be requested by calling (instate) 480-517-8345, (out-of-state) 877-517-8345, or by submitting an information request form by mail. Please remember that ADC policies must be followed and all courses must be approved through the Correctional Education Program Manager/Supervisor at each location. That person will have the correct ADC forms as well as any other ADC policies that need to be followed. 

Cost Image courtesy

The total cost of the class will vary depending on the total number of credits the student enrolls in and price of the book/s. Other costs include an $11 course packet for each course, and a $15 one-time per semester registration fee. For information on book pricing please call Incarcerated Re-Entry @ (480) 517-8345 (in-state) or (877) 517-8345 (out-of-state).

If a student is incarcerated with the Arizona Department of Corrections, the student’s tuition and fees must be paid with a check from the student’s inmate account. If a family member or outside party is paying the educational costs (tuition, fees, registration, books) on behalf of the student, it may be paid by cash, check, money order, Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express card.

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The Cornell Prison Education Program: An Overview

By Christopher Zoukis

Serving the Central New York and Finger Lakes region, the Cornell University Education Program provides college-level instruction to prison inmates who meet the program’s requirements.  Both Cornell faculty and graduate students teach prisoners located at the Auburn Correctional Facility and the Cayuga Correctional Facility.  Cayuga Community College accredits the earned degrees and confers Associate’s Degrees on inmates who complete the required coursework. 

Mission and Vision  Image courtesy

With a goal to prepare inmates “to join the workforce as informed citizens” and provide them with new skills to “negotiate some of the tensions that shape their everyday existence,” the Cornell program is small, but utterly focused, according to its website.  Instructors and other volunteers work with inmates in both maximum and medium security prisons and instruct students with an eye to prepare them for their future lives outside of prison once they reenter society.  Students pay no tuition or fees to obtain this valuable instruction from renowned Cornell faculty. 

Program History

While it’s not commonplace for Ivy League institutions to take their coursework to prisons, Cornell began to do just that in 1999 after public funding for prison education was cut.  While the program began on a volunteer basis with Cornell faculty giving their time to area prisons, it has been able to expand its offerings based on grants from foundations like the Sunshine Lady Foundation.  Instructors have designed their curriculum with a largely liberal arts focus.  While Cornell faculty and graduate students provide instruction, the program is also supported by about forty undergraduate students who work as teaching assistants and tutors.

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Overview of New Mexico’s Prison Education Programs

By Christopher  Zoukis

The New Mexico prison system takes a comprehensive view of prison education; their educational programs are governed by the New Mexico Corrections Department Education Bureau.  The bureau works in conjunction with other agencies, organizations, and the community to ensure that prisoners have the opportunity to obtain vocational and academic skills.  The aim of their programs is to reduce recidivism and help inmates become responsible and contributing members of society.  Image courtesy

Range of Educational Services

New Mexico offers many types of educational programs to inmates.  Parenting courses, English as a Second Language courses (ESL), vocational classes, employment related classes, and college-level coursework are some of the main features of their overall programming.  Placement exams allow bureau staff to effectively steer inmates to the programs that would most benefit them.  There are also programs to address special needs of incarcerated individuals.  Taking coursework while imprisoned allows the inmates to earn certifications, certificates, and even college credits.

Assessments Offered to Inmates

The bureau offers a wide array of exams that allow it to place prisoners in appropriate programs suited to both their level of education and demonstrated skills.  Some basic tests offered by the prison system include the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) that measures basic skills in reading, language, and math.  The test is standard in the education field and is suited to the diverse range of adult learners.  Once an inmate has taken the exam, staff members are better able to determine which types of programs would be most advantageous for individuals.

The Employability Competency System Full Battery (CASAS) assesses skills for the bureau’s vocational and post-secondary programming.  The Act WorkKeys exam also helps determine placement by assessing employability skills.  The Choices assessment takes inmates’ own preferences for future employment into consideration while also helping them determine careers that best meet their skill sets at the time of their assessment.  The Keytrain assessment relates to state employability and allows inmates to determine their eligibility for a range of employment options in New Mexico.  These are just a few of the assessments offered through the bureau.  There are others that determine college level placement, intelligence tests, and language deficiencies, for example.

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My Prison Education

By Christopher A. Vaughn

I was kicked out of high school my sophomore year due to attendance issues. Shortly after that I was arrested for several crimes that resulted in a 34-year prison sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Coming to jail at seventeen and facing the many serious offenses I was faced with led me to a new thought process. One in which I was searching for a positive end to the tragic situation I had gotten myself into. My only solution was to gain the best education available to me in order to prepare myself for my return home. Since the Macon County Jail only offered G.E.D. classes for inmates who weren’t facing class X felonies, I wasn’t able to participate. My quest for education was put on hold.  Image courtesy

After being sentenced, I was shipped out of the Macon County Jail and into the I.D.O.C. More specifically, Graham Correctional Center. I quickly signed up for G.E.D. classes and within two months I had successfully obtained my G.E.D.

In Illinois, first time offenders are placed on the top priority list when it comes to schooling, rather than ones who return to prison multiple times. Because I met the top priority qualifications, I was placed into a vocational course just weeks after receiving my G.E.D. My first choice was Small Business Management. After completing the 8-month course I enrolled in the Environmental Studies Course (commonly referred to as Custodial Maintenance).

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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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The Power of Education

By Jermaine J. Sims The current economic situation in America has caused budgetary constraints to ensue within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Because of these constraints, inmate tutors are having both their pay and hours cut. As such, it’s not difficult to imagine a Bureau of Prisons where academic and vocational programs are few and

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Adams State University Prison College Program

Adams State University offers the following information about the Prison College Program, designed specifically for prisoners:

Welcome to the Adams State University Prison College Program. Here you will find information about what Adams State University can offer to incarcerated individuals.  Image courtesy

At Adams State University we know how important education is to all individuals, especially for those who happen to be incarcerated. Through correspondence courses, Adams State University provides an opportunity for incarcerated students to work for college credit and towards a degree. We have helped thousands of prisoners throughout the United States to reach their education goals.

Adams State University is committed to addressing the specific needs of incarcerated students by offering the following benefits:

  • Quality – All of our degrees are accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Availability –  Numerous degree options are available through correspondence delivery including Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, History, Government, Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies. Interdisciplinary Degrees consist of two emphasis areas.   We also offer a correspondence Masters in Business Administration. 
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Resocialization Through Prison Education

By William R. Piper

To begin, environmental survival concerns the ability of the prisoner to sustain his well-being given the rigors of prevailing prison conditions. Imprisonment entails a form of secondary socialization in which prisoners have to adapt to prison as a way of life. Old modes of living are shattered and they have to adjust themselves to the deprivations of prisons. They might do this in a number of ways. The range of such adjustment entails the pain of imprisonment in which prisoners must come to grips with a new reality, a new concrete situation in which the events in the prison setting fail to corroborate their prior social experiences.

Prison conditions constitute the concrete situation in which prisoners find themselves and in which they must not only survive, but must transform and from which they struggle to free themselves. Although constituting the prisoners concrete situation, prison conditions should not be perceived as hopeless or unalterable, but merely as limiting and therefore challenging.  Image courtesy

I have been incarcerated since 1992, and during my imprisonment as a result of an unlawful arrest and conviction, I have witnessed the need for continuing education, along with other programs equipped to provide a means of positive change.

It cannot be disputed that providing education begins a process of enabling and motivation. It motivates the person to look at themselves and seek change; and it enables a person not only to gain information but to open their minds and spirits to more objective and positive views of the world and their own ability to establish a place for themselves in the world.

Education enables a person in prison to see the potential for change and the possibility of a new life. Indeed, it allows the person to think more responsibly and, in thinking more responsibly, the person’s attitudes and values are called into question.

When attitudes and values are objectively looked at, the full range of social and community obligations begin to take root in that person’s mindset. This in turn creates “positive” changes in one’s behavior.

It can furthermore be argued that education inspires a person to develop those essential human qualities that are necessary to all social and community relationships. With education men and women can return to their communities from prison, bringing the spirit of positive change. Without it, they bring only the worst of the experiences encountered as a result of their exposure to imprisonment and the Criminal Justice System’s practice of warehousing a particular class of people.

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Why Prisoners Need Education

By Christopher Zoukis

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.  Image courtesy

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.

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The Need for Program Accreditation

By Christopher Zoukis

Here at FCI Petersburg the Education Department offers several programming opportunities.  These include GED classes, English-as-a-Second Language classes, and Adult Continuing Education (ACE) courses.  With the exception of the GED program, none of these programs offer outside recognition of course completion.  None of the courses — outside of the GED program — are accredited or recognized as formal educational endeavors.  Image courtesy

I’m all for learning for learning’s sake.  As a matter of fact, I’m not only on the testing crew for the new self-paced ACE program here at FCI Petersburg, but I even take a different traditional ACE course each quarter.  I do this because I enjoy taking classes and find it helpful to analyze other teachers’ methods of instruction.  I feel that both my own knowledge base and teaching skills can be enhanced through these courses.  This is regardless of program accreditation.  Though I would certainly be interested in a program which I could add to a resume; something to help my employment prospects upon release.  Sadly, a Federal Bureau of Prisons’ educational certificate is not going to do the trick.

Prisoners as a whole are an under-educated class.  When they attend classes on resume writing or job interviews, they are at a loss for what to do with a resume and what to tell an employer.  This is because many only have a GED; not even a real high school diploma.  Some lack even a GED.  Something needs to be done about this.  If a prisoner is at a loss for how to explain their lack of an adequate work or educational history while in a classroom setting, which is designed to prepare them for job interviews, then the actual interviews will almost certainly be total failures.  As correctional educators, we should not accept this.  We should strive to prepare our students for success, not probable failure.  In my mind, when my students fail, it is really me failing them since it was they who put their trust in me to prepare them for success.

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