America’s Prisons: A Road to Nowhere

By Ben Notterman / Huffington Post Video of Henry McCollum’s release shows the exonerated death row inmate making his way through a crowd of excited onlookers and into his family’s car, where he could not figure out how to fasten his seatbelt. In his defense, many states did not begin mandating the use of seatbelts

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By James R. Smith

I have been incarcerated for twelve years now and education has and always been my strongest ambition. As a former innate paralegal, I decided to expand my mind by gaining a college education, but the problem was: How was I going to pay for it? That’s the question most individuals who are incarcerated ask themselves, especially if they don’t have family members or friends to help them. But be not despaired.

I was fortunate. A good friend of mine was willing to pay for my initial education. As a result of his kindness, I was able to obtain an Associate’s of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies. But what now! I have a strong desire, like most individuals, to continue my education. However, I am financially unable to do so. I thought about financial aid, but with the congressional elimination of federal Fell Grants in 1994, financial aid was not possible, or so I thought. I learned that “individuals who are currently incarcerated have limited eligibility for federal student aid. Individuals incarcerated in federal or state institutions are eligible only for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSB9G) and Federal Work Study.” The FSBOG provides awards for students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Since these are grants the student does not have to work for the money nor does the money have to be repaid.  Image courtesy

The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point for accessing all federal student aid. This is the government form you use to apply for a number of sources of federal student aid, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Work-Study. Most states and schools also use information from the FAFSA to award additional types of financial aid, such as, state-need aid and scholarships.

If a person has access to the Internet or has a friend or family member that is willing to help, I have included Web Sites for the purpose of researching Scholarships in order to help those seeking additional funding in order to take college courses or to further their college education.

Seeking Grants and Scholarships takes patience and time so do not despair if one or more places deny your request or application. Keep at it and remember, ‘Hard Work Pays Off.’ Additionally, many grants and scholarships have filing deadlines so one must be diligent in researching and meeting any and all deadlines requested by the school, organization or foundation.

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