The Great Escape: Education is the Ticket to Freedom

The Great Escape: Education is the Ticket to Freedom

Most of us know we will be released from prison. One day, sooner or later, we will be out on the street again. The question is: will that be a one-way trip? Will each of us leave the prison world never to return? To do that, we must know how to survive – no, not survive, succeed – when we re-enter society.
Statistics are stacked against us. Most prisoners get out and, eventually, most of us find ourselves back in. There are many reasons for the high rate of recidivism (the return of ex-prisoners to incarceration), but studies consistently show that the primary cause is unemployment. On the outside you need a job to eat. To have a place to live. To support your family. To hold your head high and know you can handle freedom.
But jobs are hard to come by when you carry a prison record with you. Still, we can’t use that as an excuse. With good skills and education – solid vocational training at the very least or, even better, an advanced degree – released prisoners can overcome a prison record. In fact – and this is the good news – 75% of college-educated ex-convicts are able to surmount the stigma of their criminal record to find stable employment.1

Getting Out and Staying Out

Once released back into society, education is, beyond a doubt, your ticket to a second chance at life, your best hope for never seeing prison walls again. Nothing else has proven to be as effective. And, not surprisingly, the higher your level of education, the greater your ability to secure steady employment. In other words, prisoner-students who complete a college education or get an advanced degree qualify for the best jobs, the higher salaries, and a good standard of living. Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 93% more than workers with only a high-school diploma.2
Many who live within prison walls come from broken families and inadequate schools; they’ve known racial discrimination and physical or sexual abuse.3 For some, that kind of life is all they’ve known, and they can’t imagine striving for anything different. For them, the first positive experience they encounter might ironically be during incarceration, when they participate in a correctional educational class.
Whether the course is vocational, basic literacy, high-school equivalency, peer-to-peer sessions, or college-level, learning introduces prisoners to the idea that they can succeed through hard work. For people on the “outside,” that may be self-evident. But for many within prison walls, it is a brand-new concept.
Working at class assignments gives prisoners a purpose in life, a focus, and the deep satisfaction of seeing hard work lead to positive results. More than half the incarcerated population has minor children with whom they maintain regular contact, either by telephone, mail, or visits.4 Their commitment to working hard on studies serves as a role model for their children who, in turn, may become motivated to pursue an educational track. So to be successful when released, to function and survive in today’s economy, there is only one way: education. To live a rewarding life, with a job that provides satisfaction, as well as a salary, there is only one way: education. To protect and raise a family and serve as a positive role model, there is only one way: education.

Inner Freedom

It is powerfully liberating to develop the ability to reason logically and analytically. Senses numbed in prison awaken and release creativity that is both therapeutic and rehabilitative.5 Given the reality of daily brutality that strips one of control and connectedness, writing and education bring to the prisoner a most basic freedom: that of self-expression. Men and women writing from prison have demonstrated astonishing potential that can develop into real talent within a structured learning environment.6 They discover that writing is a great tool for preserving one’s sanity, for healing, and for giving voice to those who are silenced. It creates autonomy in a world where none exists.
Transcending imprisonment with fresh discovery is freedom, an inner freedom that even prison can never take away.7 The body may be trapped, but the mind is liberated, opened to new visions and new worlds. A prisoner who studies defies a stultifying daily existence and escapes the boredom, the monotony, the do-nothing that turns a brain into silly putty. The best escape route, second to none, is: education.
Education is not just acquiring practical knowledge or new skills, facts, and concepts; it’s about learning to think. Learning to express oneself clearly and in a healthy manner. It is a path to developing stable personal and business relationships, to acquiring new values, constructing a new life, and staying out of prison forever. It’s about the transformation of a person.
And this is what it takes for an individual to “make it” when released into the world.8

New Tricks for Old Dogs?

Too late, too old, you say? Education is not realistic for the aging prisoner? Nonsense. Your life isn’t over until it’s over.
In reality, very few older prisoners are motivated to pursue a college education. Too many of them think, “What’s the point?” An example is my own cell mate, a man in his early 60s who will be released when he is 71. I have actually offered to pay his tuition if he would enroll in college. It was both surprising and disappointing when he declined the offer. He had lost his ability to envision or care about any kind of a future.
It is understandable, but how sad! At any age – even if you have a life sentence with no hope of release – education is a way to make something meaningful of the years you have left.
Ask yourself, “How much time have I wasted in my life because of poor decisions?” I say to you, do something positive now, so you don’t waste a single minute more! Take the plunge!
As prisoners, we do have some advantages over students on the outside. Time, for example. You’ve got time on your hands, plenty of it. Make it work for you! Use it to read, to learn. It needn’t be a burden: it should be an exciting adventure.
Studies indicate that adult learners perform as well as, or even better than, traditional-age students. They are often more focused, more purposeful, and more motivated. So there is no reason for prisoners to fall back on advancing age as an excuse. Don’t look for reasons why you cannot; rather, look for ways that you can.
“But four years from now, I’ll be X years old!” you might protest. Yes. Well, guess what: four years from now, whether you get a degree or not, you will still be X years old.

For “Lifers,” What’s the Point?

What about prisoners who have no hope of ever being released? Is there any point to putting themselves through the grueling hard work?
People incarcerated permanently, or for a very long time, also desire meaningful participation. They, too, welcome an intellectual and academic challenge to combat the deadening effect of prison. “But to think they are developing resumes or preparing for a successful career is delusional.”9 So why pursue it?
Some would do it to build a sense of self-worth or to escape the stress and tension of a violent environment. But there is another reason, more profound and more compelling than any other: Education is a means to making restitution.
Prisoners who have ever wondered how they can make amends, how they can ever contribute to society and make their lives count for something, discover that education is a way to do it – even within prison walls. Those with lifelong sentences who educate themselves can later educate others. They can teach fellow prisoners who are thirsty to learn, who are looking for a way out of the cycle of crime, who hunger for the adventure of new discoveries. They can be for their fellow prisoners a stepping stone to a productive life, they can inspire them with enthusiasm for living, even while confined.
Most prisoners who anticipate release cannot afford traditional courses. Imagine if a lot of older, long-term or life-term prisoners pursued a quality education, built their knowledge base, and developed communication skills: why, they could start a school for teaching their fellow prisoners, the ones who will be released and return to the outside world. When they experience the kind of transformation and motivation that turns lives around, they’ll make positive changes in their own lives, their children’s lives, and the lives of others in the communities to which they will return.
Educated “lifers” can teach the others. Tutor them. Help them pass exams. They can become part of the process to transform fellow prisoners and, when those prisoners leave the prison world, to transform the society they will rejoin.
Pursuing an education and, in turn, educating others is one very meaningful way to make a contribution.

A Tough Road to Travel — Not for Cowards

Without question, as a prisoner, the single smartest thing you can do for yourself and for your life, is to get an education. A degree. That’s the ticket to … wherever you want to go!
What’s not so easy is making it happen. We mustn’t kid ourselves: this is not an escape route for cowards. It is fraught with obstacles, frustrations, and defeats. In your situation, this could be the single hardest thing you will ever have to do in your life. And for your life. Are you up to it?
Prison is a tough place: degrading, painful, and caustic.10 Cages restrain people in a mean-spirited system staffed with workers who are not always held accountable. It is neither designed for reform nor for rehabilitation.
Pursuing a post-secondary education in prison is no easy task; there are obstacles in every direction. But obstacles do not mean defeat. All is possible. Nevertheless, it will help to be aware of the difficulties so you can prepare – not just financially or logistically, but also psychologically and emotionally. Here are some of the barriers you will probably encounter when you set your sight on education.
Lack of Vision: Looking at the big picture, a most pervasive barrier to post-secondary education for incarcerated students is the lack of vision and support from policymakers and the voting public.11 This is what prevents the necessary state and federal funding. And whenever budget cuts become necessary, educational programs are the first to go. Why? Because there is no support from the general public, because prison administrators see them as non-essential, and because other services, like medical care and sanitation are legally required and, therefore, get priority.12
Limited funding means limited space, resources, class materials, equipment for vocational programs, and technology. Trained instructors are rare.
With very few exceptions, prisons do not offer courses beyond literacy and basic – very basic! – life skills. So prisoners interested in advanced education have to pay for it on their own (except for the free Bible courses), they must study on their own and take the tests on their own. It is something the incarcerated have to do for themselves; no one will help.
Without awareness on the part of the public and support from legislators, higher education for prisoners may prove to be impossible.
Lack of Literacy and Basic Skills: As compared to the general population, prisoners are an under-educated class coming from a culture of poverty, with few skills for handling everyday tasks, and little or no experience in a trade or career.13 As a result, prison educators find it is no easy task teaching incarcerated adults who carry a skewed, troublesome experience of life and the world and have less than a fifth-grade proficiency in reading and math.14 Many require significant remedial help before they can attend more advanced educational classes.15  Addictions and Maladies: In the incarcerated population, there is a prevalence of learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, and mental illness, often undiagnosed and untreated. One instructor observed that half the prison population where she taught was medicated. Even prisoners who really wanted to learn could not absorb the information because of the effect of the medication on their thinking. Occasionally, students from mental units came into classrooms creating such disruptions they had to be escorted out.16
Drug addiction and alcoholism are statistically significant. In the hope of changing destructive behaviors, instructors who try to infuse new knowledge into their students’ harsh realities, sometimes where it is not wanted, must be highly dedicated.17
All that said, however, we must not forget that the prison population also contains individuals who are ready and able to succeed at college, and whose life trajectories will be substantially improved by higher education. There are sufficient numbers of prisoners like these, good candidates for college-level studies, to make a real difference. To educate them will make a considerable impact on the rates of recidivism and on our entire society.
Limited Access to Schools: Prisoners obviously cannot leave the facility to attend classes, so instructors must go into the prisons to reach them. The best proven way to offer advanced college-level programs in prisons is to partner with local colleges and universities who are willing to send in teachers.18 However, most prisons are located in isolated areas, so getting qualified teachers to the prison for on-site instruction can be difficult.
Without on-site instruction, the only other option is distance-learning by correspondence, since computerized distance-learning technology is not possible in prisons, because prisoners are barred from access to the Internet.
Restrictions on Teachers: The ABE (Adult Basic Education) and GED (High-School equivalency) courses are usually taught by prison employees, or by prisoners themselves; therefore, credit from some of these courses may not be accepted at all educational institutions or by many employers.19 Qualified educators are rare to non-existent, because even if they were willing to teach on-site, behind bars, the requirements of prison security impose unique constraints upon them. Prison facilities are, first and foremost, institutions of control and security, not classrooms or schools”.20 Instructors and volunteers cannot enter or leave easily and clearance is difficult to obtain. Once inside, professors go through extensive security procedures before reaching the classroom, and again on the way out.
In addition to commuting long distances and submitting to security procedures, teachers have to develop a special set of courses and assignments to accommodate the prison environment in which their prisoner-students live.
Teachers must accept frequent interruptions to students’ participation in classes, and students being absent for reasons beyond their control. And there is no flexibility for instructors to run even a few minutes over class time when necessary.
Several times a month – sometimes several times in a week –the prison initiates a “lock-down” when all prisoners have to leave the classroom and return immediately to their cells. Numerous other barriers lock prisoners out of classes, too, including disciplinary actions, an upcoming parole hearing, or visits from an attorney. And many prisoner-students who must earn money for essential items like shampoo or toothpaste have to drop out of courses that interfere with work assignments.21
Instructors need special training and orientation, as well as a lot of dedication and perseverance to teach in a prison environment where security, not learning, is the priority. Many feel it is not worth it.

Until …

Until they see how many prisoners are hungry, starved for education. Until instructors realize they may be the last link between the prisoner-student and rehabilitation, and that they can really turn a life around. The idea that there might be an opportunity to be educated “may be the first glimmer of hope that [a prisoner] can escape the cycles of poverty and violence that have dominated their lives.”22 Therefore, prisoner-students often see their teachers as knights in shining armor, as the only people who have not given up on them, who believe in them and in their abilities. “They don’t ever want to leave the classroom,” one teacher said.23
Prison educators approach the prisoner-students with an attitude that is very different from that of prison guards. They teach with the concept of behavior by expectation, as opposed to behavior by coercive rule. Coercion produces obedience, not cooperation, and not a desire to change. Educators, conversely, inspire thinking; they help prisoner-students discover for themselves the kind of behavior that leads to positive results. Prison educators are mindful that these students will return to society one day, and they need help to develop a sense of responsibility. While behind bars, prisoners care only for themselves. Once released, they will also have to care for family members they have left behind. In the classroom, they often develop something that goes beyond a desire to “stay out of trouble;” they develop a more conscientious approach to life.
Lack of Support for Prisoners: If the prison environment imposes hardships on instructors, it does so equally or more for the prisoner-student who desires to learn. This is not an environment that encourages academic achievement. Prisons are extremely loud throughout the day and night, with prisoners yelling, guards shouting, public address systems interrupting routinely, security gates buzzing, and televisions blaring constantly. There is no quiet time when students can concentrate on their work and, working in small cells shared by roommates, hardly any physical space to store books and other personal property.24
In prison there are no academic libraries, and no access to tutoring or updated, relevant materials. Even simple supplies such as dictionaries, notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters or sticky notes can be hard to come by.25 You may not have access to bookseller catalogs with book descriptions. If your course requires certain books, and if you are required to submit a synopsis of books to obtain purchase approval, this creates a “catch-22,” because without a catalog you can’t write a synopsis and, therefore, you can’t get the book.
There are restrictions on the number of books prisoners can keep in their cells and on the type of materials used for instruction. Nothing with a metal binding is allowed. Even spiral notebooks, used by students universally, are barred because the metal binding can be undone for use as a weapon. And chemistry lab courses are banned because they involve substances that can be used to manufacture drugs.26
As you well know, prisoners have no internet access. Therefore, none of the 2,500 on-line schools are available to the incarcerated; they don’t exist for you. And each year, there are fewer and fewer schools that offer courses by mail; each year more of them go on line.
Mail is rigorously screened. Receiving books and texts can take weeks – if they are delivered at all. In my personal experience, course materials have been rejected because the mail room misplaced a form. When a package is rejected, the recipient prisoner should theoretically be notified, but usually the recipient is not, so (s)he can be left to wonder why the books have not arrived after two months. Filing grievances against the mail room for these rejections, which I do, seems to be an exercise in futility. The mailroom can withhold all or parts of packages and correspondence, even pre-paid correspondence courses and materials; they can limit envelope enclosures, prohibit receiving stamps, and continue to increase restrictions that further isolate you from the outside world.27
Another inconvenience is that prisoners have no access to their instructors. There are, of course, no “office hours” and no way to call or e-mail professors with questions.
Prisoners deal with a reality of which people on the “outside” may be unaware: within the prison, there are times when violence causes one to drop everything else and focus entirely upon survival, times when one’s personal safety is at stake.
But probably the most difficult aspect of trying to get an education is that prisoners are frequently and involuntarily transferred to other prison facilities with only days or hours notice.28 Transfers disrupt any educational program, whether vocational training or at the college level. For prisoners sent to institutions with no similar educational programming, it is an abrupt end to earning credit for what they’ve learned, and for completing their degree or certificate program. Frequently transfers occur regardless of how close the prisoner is to finishing the course or program. They can happen just before the point of completion. Up in smoke goes your passport to survival on the outside.29
The Warden Rules: Prison officials, prison educators, and higher education administrators often work for different agencies which may have conflicting priorities (security vs. education, for example). Conflicting priorities work against developing policies to promote post-secondary prison education.30
At the end of the day, therefore, it comes down to the warden’s authority over any individual facility. Unfortunately, wardens and prison administrators do not always encourage prisoners engaged in higher education because of the extra paperwork and processing it imposes upon them. Even guards have vast discretionary powers, and the prison environment often brings out the hostile, aggressive, and abusive sides of their character.
One prisoner described educational events being cancelled on a moment’s notice for ‘security reasons.’ He had seen guards flex their muscle and return men to their cells with no provocation, just to undermine the educational process. He said prisoners were treated with disrespect and left with little or no avenue of defense.31
When an individual becomes educated, (s)he becomes a critical thinker and is likely to dissent. It’s what we (normally) want students to do. But dissent in prison – even perceived dissent –any challenge to the status quo or to authority can be interpreted as a threat, and you can be silenced in harsh ways. So prisoner-students walk a delicate political line. Materials they have requested (and have paid for) can be refused. Peter Collins tells of one prisoner-student who had sent away for information on Black Panthers and the Native American movement. He was not able to receive it.32 And if the writings of prisoner-students displease prison officials, it is not unusual for them to experience retribution by having parole denied, losing good-time credit, physical threats, cell searches, long-time confinement in ‘the hole,’ exclusion from all courses and extra-curricular programs,33 or disciplinary transfers to other prisons.34 They might confiscate books, files, supplies, typewriters, correspondence and manuscripts with excuses as flimsy as calling them “a fire hazard.”35
It happened to me. My school materials and research work were reported as “causing a fire hazard” because there was too much paper in my cell. The guards dumped all my neatly filed and organized paperwork out of my locker onto the floor. They opened and emptied every envelop and file and confiscated my highlighters, paper clips, and book light. Afterward, they denied confiscating anything.
Educational programs could go a long way if the Department of Corrections worked together with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to administer for-credit vocational certificate programs, or for-credit transferrable college-level courses from accredited schools. In the two states with the largest post-secondary prison education programs, Texas and North Carolina, there is a statewide culture of commitment to prison education and clearly defined policies that apply to all their prison facilities, policies that not only enable, but require them to offer higher education to prisoners. These states have initiated cooperative contracts between the DOC and the Community Colleges. They have proven it can work!36
Sadly, this is not always the case.
In almost all other prisons, it comes down to what the warden wants. If the warden does not believe in using public funds to offer post-secondary educational programs, there will be none spent – even if money is available. If a facility is currently offering post-secondary prison education and a new warden comes in, those programs may be shut down. The warden makes the rules regarding the possession of textbooks, correspondence through the mail room, the use of the prison library, and other critical restrictions.
Each individual prison warden has the authority to allow or to not allow higher education programs and to negotiate with local colleges or universities to provide instruction. Some wardens don’t believe in the benefits of educational programs. Others are short-staffed and do not welcome the additional burden.
When dealing with the prison education staff and guards in various prisons where I served time, what I have personally observed is lethargy. They appear completely uninterested in seeing prisoners educated. They seem focused instead on when their shift ends and how to get by doing as little as possible until that time. If anyone thinks this is an exaggeration, it is well documented by those who study the prison environment. Prison staff interviewed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy expressed resentment that prisoners were offered educational opportunities which they, themselves, did not have.37
An uncooperative prison staff can obstruct post-secondary education programs in many ways. They might not, for example, release a prisoner from his or her cell to attend class. They might confiscate a prisoner’s texts. They can do many things to thwart the efforts of prisoners who are capable of, and eager to, learn.38 Understandably, action like this on the part of prison staff creates real antagonism and frustration.
Prisoners seeking an advanced education must rely on cooperation from their facility’s Education Department. At FCI Petersburg, where I am incarcerated, the Education Department houses a library comprising a few law books and many low-quality novels (romance and thriller types – not real literature). It has typewriters, TVs with DVD players, and classrooms for the GED courses. The primary purpose of the Education Department is to administer the GED courses. There is no listing of schools that offer correspondence courses accessible to prisoners. This information is not available in prison libraries or from prison Education Departments. Determined incarcerated students have to rely on themselves to identify and locate these schools, write to them for information, enroll in their courses, and pursue the programs. When they do find the right courses and enroll, they have to concentrate amidst all the distracting activities, do the assignments, and put in the time. No one else cares if they do; they have to discipline and motivate themselves.
Courses are Costly: Perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome for a prisoner-student is the cost of education. Distance-learning programs are expensive and, once enrolled, there are additional hidden costs. Unless you are personally wealthy (and how many prisoners are?), money is hard to come by, especially since Pell Grants and most student loans are no longer available.
Correctional educators observe that prisoners are generally enthusiastic about the idea of getting a college education.39 Even those who are not prepared academically have shown a willingness to complete the necessary remedial work, motivated by the possibility of gaining access to post-secondary education.40 They are eager to be occupied and engaged in educational efforts that lift them out of an otherwise idle, bored, and frustrated existence.
Sadly, what little funding remains for educational programs is spent on Adult Basic Education (literacy, anger management, etc.) and GED (high-school equivalency) classes – the bare basics. Vocational training is very limited and academics are rare. “Inmates are not earning college degrees, not even Associate degrees, in any significant numbers. In 2003-2004, there were less than 5% of the total prison population nationwide enrolled in post-secondary educational classes.”41 For female prisoners, opportunities for education beyond a high-school diploma or GED are fewer still. Only 20% of prisons housing women offer any kind of college-level educational programming.42
According to Stephen Steurer, Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association, prison budgets have skyrocketed because our prison population is expanding exponentially; however, funds allocated for prison education have drastically decreased.43 It makes no sense, but there it is: Decreased! Gail Oliver, retired Deputy Corrections Secretary for Prisoner Re-Entry, said, “Education is the number-one way of preventing people from going back to prison.”44 But despite all the research and documentation that proves it is true, funding for in-prison education is almost completely wiped out.

Walls of a University

Prison doesn’t have to be a hell hole. It can be your own university. It can be an exciting career training center. A seminary. It can improve your life, now and for years to come.
No doubt about it: as a prisoner-student you have got it tough. Hopefully, it is helpful to remember you are not alone. Thousands of your fellow convicts are going through the same thing. Prison is not a picnic, but keep working at it. Sometimes success is achieved “in spite of,” rather than because of the system.
There is nothing sadder to see than people passing days, weeks, months, and years in a passive, do-nothing state that rots the mind and spirit, wasting in limbo, eyes glazed and dulled by perpetual TV watching.
At the very least, whether you enroll in a formal college course or not, remember: you have time on your hands. Use it to educate yourself. Use it to read. Reading is your best preparation for beginning higher education. Good literature and serious books provide a mind-expanding experience that can literally transport you into another life.
Get a more educated view of what is going on in the prison world with journals like the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. Read newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, or news magazines like Newsweek and Time for a better understanding of the world you will one day belong to again. Learn about issues people and politicians are dealing with, issues that may affect your future life.
Write to your local public library and ask if they will get permission from prison authorities to donate good books to your library. Ask your friends and family to send good nonfiction and literary fiction books to you. They can get them at, a great resource for deep discounts on books. Borrow good books from other prisoners who read a lot. If you know fellow convicts who are taking college courses, read their old textbooks to get a leg up on plans to enroll in school. And thumb through your prison library. The library, unfortunately, may be stocked with trashy fiction, not literature, not books worthy of your effort. But there could be a gem or two in there.

Imprisoned Intellectuals

Here is something you may not be aware of: Some of the world’s finest and most enduring literature was written by brilliant, incarcerated people. From within prison walls came the work of writers like Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote); Fyodor Dostoevsky (Brothers Karamazov); Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo); Antonio Gramsci (founder of the Italian Communist Party whose writings focus on politics, ideology, and culture); Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Gulag Archipelago); and Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace).
Others who were incarcerated and made a powerful impact upon society and the political or social order were Mahatma Gandhi, William Reich, George Jackson, Eldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King.45 There is much one can do to contribute, even behind bars.
Imprisonment is not an excuse.
Despite the nearly complete shutdown of higher education classes in prisons across the country since 1994, when the Pell Grants were denied to incarcerated students, persistent prisoners are taking independent study courses and many have done so with surprising success!

A Sound Investment

People are incarcerated 1) to protect society 2) to punish the offender, and 3) to rehabilitate the prisoner.”46 Our prison systems manage the first fairly well and the second very well. It seems that the third, rehabilitation, has been largely ignored.
Today’s prisons are about incarceration, not rehabilitation. They are human warehouses. The focus is on protecting the public by locking offenders away and keeping them inside as long as possible, as well as on the security of the prison facility. Prison is prison. It is not a school. It is not even a vocational school.
Of course, it is critical that we protect our citizens; we have no argument there. But we would protect them so much better if we could rehabilitate prisoners so that when they return to society – and most all of them do – they are no longer a threat.
Key to successful rehabilitation will be partnerships between prison systems, the academic world, business and industry, and political leadership.
The evidence is there, and it is well documented. Prison administrators, lawmakers, and the general public need to understand that a sound investment in education will reduce our national deficit, improve prisoner behavior and security inside prison facilities, and contribute to a much safer, more prosperous society outside the prison walls.
1 W. Erisman and J. B. Contardo, “Learning To Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy,” The Institute for Higher Education Policy (2005)
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 J. Piché, “Barriers to Knowing Inside: Education in Prisons and Education on Prisons,” Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, Vol 17, No 1 (2008) p.10

6 S. Nagelsen, “Writing as a Tool for Constructive Rehabilitation,” Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, Vol 17, No 1 (2008) p. 107
7 Jon Marc Taylor, “Piecing Together a College Education Behind Bars,” Prison Mirror, v115 n10-13 (May-Aug 2002)
8 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.
9 G. Banks, “Learning Under Lockdown,” ColorLines from the Applied Research Center (Spring 2003)
10 Peter Collins, “Education in Prison or the Applied Art of ‘Correctional’ Deconstructive Learning,” Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, Vol 17, No 1 (2008)

11 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.
12 Brazzell, Crayton, Lindahl, Mukamal, and Solomon, “From the Classroom to the Community: Exploring the role of Education during Incarceration and Re-entry,” The Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2009)
13 Gerald G. Gaes, “The Impact of Prison Education Programs on Post-Release Outcomes,” Reentry Roundtable on Education (2008)
14 Brazzell, Crayton, op. cit.

15 In New Mexico, the corrections department reported that 10% scored at or below the third-grade level, 32% tested at or below sixth-grade levels in reading and math, only 50% had a high-school diploma, and fewer than 20 prisoners (.003%) had some college-level education [Gerald G. Gaes, “The Impact of Prison Education Programs on Post-Release Outcomes,” Reentry Roundtable on Education (2008)].
16 D.N. Williams, “Correctional Education and the Community College,” ERIC Digest (1989)17 S. Soferr, “Prison Education: Is it Worth It?” Corrections Today (Oct 2006)18 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

19 ibid.

20 Brazzell, Crayton, op. cit.

21 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

22 ibid.

23 Banks, op. cit.

24 Johanna E. Foster, Ph.D., “Bringing College Back to Prison: The State of Higher Education Programs for Incarcerated Women in the U.S.,” 8th International Women’s Policy Research Conference (June 2005)

25 ibid.

26 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

27 S. Ferranti, “Fighting Prison Censorship: An Interview with Paul Wright,” Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, Vol 17, No 1 (2008)

28 K. Mentor, JD, PhD, “College Courses in Prison,” draft of submission to the Encyclopedia of Corrections, M. Bosworth, Ed.

29 One prison system is working to correct the problem in Virginia where they will hold prisoners enrolled in education classes until they complete their coursework. When considering these transfers, the Virginia DOC works closely with the Superintendent of the Department of Correctional Education to determine the best solution. Virginia’s Department of Correctional Education also works closely with contracting community colleges to ensure prisoners complete their coursework. Occasionally, however, other factors (e.g., drug treatment) “trump” this agreement.
North Carolina’s Department of Corrections also tries to ensure that post-secondary prison education programs are offered only at prisons where prisoners would be able to finish them. It does not yet work perfectly, but it is a laudable attempt to address a critical issue [Jeanne Contardo and Michelle Tolbert, “Prison Postsecondary Education:Bridging Learning from Incarceration to the Community” a monograph presented at the Reentry Roundtable on Education convened by The Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in cooperation with The Urban Institute (Spring 2008), pp 9-10].

30 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

31 Piché, op. cit.

32 Collins, op. cit.

33 Banks, op. cit.

34 Piché, op. cit.

35 ibid.

36 Most of the instruction provided for the few post-secondary correctional education programs that do exist comes from public two-year community colleges that voluntarily donate their faculty and services. Rarely do private (for-profit) institutions offer college courses within prison walls.

37 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

38 “In 2003, a local chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association undertook an active campaign to end state-funded post-secondary programs at two state prisons and was, in fact, able to persuade the warden at one facility to suspend the program” [Erisman and Contardo, op.cit.].

39 Erisman and Contardo, op. cit.

40 ibid.41 ibid.

42 Foster, op. cit.

43 Drs. Stephen J. Steurer, Linda Smith, and Alice Tracy, “OCE/CEA Three State Recidivism Study,” Submitted to the Office of Correctional Education United States Department of Education (September 30, 2001)
44 Trip Jennings, “Quarter of State Prison Education Jobs are Vacant,” The New Mexico Independent (September 2009)
45 Jeffrey Ian Ross & Stephen C. Richards, Beyond Bars (2009), pp. 91-107

46 Williams, op. cit.