UI's Ginsburg Honored

Rebecca Ginsburg - University of Illinois / Image courtesy www.vebidoo.com

Rebecca Ginsburg - University of Illinois / Image courtesy www.vebidoo.com

By Noelle McGee

She's always had a passion for helping the disenfranchised and those marginalized by society.

That passion took Rebecca Ginsburg abroad for several years where she was involved in human rights and anti-apartheid efforts.

Then — somewhat unexpectedly, she admits — it took her into the California prison system, where she was exposed to another marginalized group. That experience led her down a different career path — bringing higher education to incarcerated students.

Now a University of Illinois faculty member, Ginsburg will be recognized next week by the YWCA for her work as co-founder and director of the Education Justice Project at the UI, which provides higher education to inmates at the Danville Correctional Center and support to them and their families.

According to YWCA officials, the Education Justice Project "has become the largest volunteer-based program in the state, outside of religious programs" and "has been transformative not just for the prisoners involved, but also for the faculty, students and community members who have helped this social justice program thrive."

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UCF Professors Stress Importance of Prison Education

By Alex Wexelman

A college degree, whether stated or unstated, is often a prerequisite for a career. For prisoners, a career is integral to adjusting after getting out and education plays a major role — and UCF professors agree.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times, written by John J. Lennon, a prisoner inmate at the Attica Correctional Facility, paints education as a beacon of hope for prisoners.

Lennon says that inmates watch television all day and companies such as Coursera already record university lectures so it would be easy for massive open online courses to be streamed on prison TVs.

"The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected," Lennon writes.

Education was once an important part of prison life. Lennon reports that in the early 1980s there were 350 college degree programs for prisoners nationwide.

Later in the decade, as crime rose due to the crack epidemic, the public mentality turned harsh on criminals and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, along with other legislation, quashed educational grants for prisoners in the '90s.

Criminal justice professors at UCF agreed that despite public opinion, educating prisoners would be beneficial to the prison system and society as a whole.

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California Prisoners to Get Jobs as Programmers

Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY

Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY

By Jessica Guynn

California inmates can earn cash making license plates for state residents. Soon they'll be able to get paid for writing code.

In a first for the country, prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are being considered for jobs as computer programmers. If everything goes as planned, they will work on projects for private businesses, all from inside the prison's walls.

Officials at San Quentin, located just miles but a world away from the heart of San Francisco's technology industry, made the announcement as the first group of inmates graduated from Code.7370, a new course that teaches the basics of coding.

Five private companies have expressed interest in hiring inmates as programmers and are being vetted, said Chuck Pattillo, general manager of the California Prison Industry Authority.

Inmates will be paid a wage comparable to entry-level programmers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pattillo said. Deductions will be taken taken from that pay for room and board at the prison, support for inmates' families, compensation for victims and a mandatory savings account that inmates can tap after they are released, Pattillo said.

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With Prison Tablets, A Choice Between Rehabilitation and Profiteering

Image courtesy apdscorporate.com

Image courtesy apdscorporate.com

By Amadou Diallo

The phone call Grace Bauer received from her son Corey, an inmate in Maryland’s Roxbury state prison, was one of desperation. An incident with other inmates the previous day made him fear that his life was in danger. “I had to call the prison and ask for help,” she recalled. Because her communication with Corey is limited to scheduled phone calls, Bauer could do nothing but wait anxiously to find out if her son was OK. “I went 24 hours without knowing if the prison took steps to keep him safe,” she said.

Even in the age of Facebook and Snapchat, most prisons and jails still rely on the telephone as the primary method of contact between inmates and their families. That’s begun to change, however, with a growing number of facilities adopting more immediate means of communication such as email from handheld devices, providing a way for inmates to stay in touch more regularly with family members. It’s a shift that Bauer, a longtime advocate for juvenile justice reform, welcomes. “If [Corey] had access to email I may have known right away that he had been moved to protective custody rather than having to go to bed worried to death,” she said.

For Chris Grewe, CEO of APDS (America Prison Data Systems), which provides prison-specific tablet computers to correctional facilities, email is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to bringing technology to those who are incarcerated. “We’re looking to provide education, rehabilitation and vocational training,” he said. “We’ve got Khan Academy [lectures] and other kinds of really robust educational materials. We replace recreational reading libraries, which are typically just a handful of donated books, with access to tens of thousands of titles in multiple languages.”

Proponents of email and mobile devices in correctional facilities believe this kind of technology has the potential, if deployed wisely, to drive down recidivism rates. A 2013 study by the RAND Corporation found that inmates who participated in educational programming were 43% less likely to return to prison than those who did not. A 2012 report by the Vera Institute of Justice reinforced previous research by detailing how regular contact with family members can reduce the risk of inmates becoming re-incarcerated once they’re released.

Bauer sees these and other benefits in her work as head of Justice for Families, an advocacy group for families with an incarcerated loved one. While it pains her that families have to pay for email services, she said “those that have access to it have been really happy with it.” Speaking of a mother who’s able to send pictures to her son, Bauer said the woman felt more strongly “like her son was still a part of the family.”

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Behind Bars, But Not The Times

© Provided by IBT US

© Provided by IBT US

By Eric Markowitz

At first glance, APDS looks like your typical tech startup: A bunch of young, bearded guys hanging out and working on MacBooks in a cavernous loft in Manhattan. There's plush vintage furniture and chalkboard walls. There's even an antique canoe dangling inexplicably from the ceiling.

But look a little closer, and you'll see that APDS, which stands for American Prison Data Systems, is anything but your typical tech startup. Led by serial entrepreneur Chris Grewe, APDS is building tablets for prisoners. And business is good.   

Of all the new tech gadgets to (legally) enter into the prison system, from MP3 players to personal TVs, tablets are quickly becoming the most popular. Starting around the beginning of 2014, the three major for-profit prison technology firms--GTL, Securus, and Telmate--began offering inmates the option to purchase tablets loaded with music, movies, and games.

But Grewe and APDS is trying to do something different.

“They’re selling pacification,” Grewe said over lunch at his company’s office recently. “We’re selling education.”

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Senator Seeks Insight on Prison Education Program

Image courtesy Nate Smith | Herald-Press

Image courtesy Nate Smith | Herald-Press

By Jennifer Sheridan

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn visited the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony to see how the prisoners are receiving education and college credits during their sentence.

The education is provided by Trinity Valley Community College educators and prisoners are able to get GEDs, vocational skills and associate degrees to benefit them after they are released from prison.

Windham School District officials said all of the prisoners go through an educational diagnostic when they enter the prison. Most prisoners were said not to have above a fifth grade reading level. The officials wanted to get the literacy rate to a higher level. Windham is the district that teaches all incarcerated students.

Cornyn took a look in different classrooms at Coffield. He was taken to a history class that was being taught by video. Each of the students had textbooks, paper and pens to study and take notes in the class. The instructor, Ella Green a retired teacher from the Palestine Independent School District, said all of her classes were taught over the internet by an instructor of remote learning.

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A College Education for Prisoners

Image courtesy nytimes.com

Image courtesy nytimes.com

To the Editor:Help Us Learn in Prison,” by John J. Lennon, an Attica inmate (Sunday Review, April 5), urging that prisoners be offered college courses, hit me like a ton of bricks.

That was me in the early 1990s, in my cell, believing that I was destined to sell drugs on the corner, with prison an occupational hazard. But as part of a routine intake I was encouraged to enroll in high school equivalency classes. I did.

Instructors again urged me to take college classes. It turns out, I was among the last to get a college education in a New York State prison before inmates were denied access to federal and state financial aid programs. The classes were life changing and gave me options that I pursued upon my release. As I continued my education, career opportunities increased dramatically. I’ve never looked back.

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Women In Prison

State and Federal Prisoners: There were 113,000 women offenders incarcerated in state and federal facilities in 2010 compared to 1,500,000 male inmates.
The growth in the female incarcerated population was 2.2 percent since 2,000. The growth in the male incarcerated population was 1.6 percent since 2,000.
Male inmates had an incarceration rate 14 times higher than females.
Black females had an imprisonment rate nearly three times that of white females.
Thirty-six percent of females were incarcerated for violent crimes. Property offenses (30 percent) and drug offenses (26 percent) were the next most prevalent offenses.
Prisoners in 2010, Published in December, 2011, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice

HIV: In 2004, 2.6 percent of all female state prison inmates were HIV positive, compared to 1.8 of males. HIV in Prisons, 2004. Published November, 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Mental Health: Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (73 percent of females versus of 55 percent of males in state prisons). Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, Published September, 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Note: Based on self report data, not necessarily a formal diagnosis.

Physical or Sexual Abuse: Nearly 8 in 10 female mentally ill inmates reported physical or sexual abuse. Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, Published July, 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Sexual Abuse: 57.2 percent of females report abuse before admission to state prison versus 16.1 percent of males. 39.0 percent of female state prison inmates report that they were sexually abused before admission to state prison versus 5.8 percent of males. Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers, Published in April, 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Physical or Sexual Violence: Nearly 6 in 10 women in state prisons had experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past. 69 percent reported that the assault occurred before age 18. Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Women Offenders and Children: Approximately 7 in 10 women under correctional sanction have minor children, more than 1,300.000 children. Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Drug Use: On every measure of drug use, women offenders in state prison reported higher usage (40 percent) compared to males (32 percent). Women Offenders, Published December 1999, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Note: This is self reported data. Actual number of offenders with substance abuse histories is approximately 80 percent (national data).

Law Classes Educate Inmates at Kenya's Langata Women's Prison

By Gabe Joselow

At a women's prison in Nairobi, Kenyan inmates are taking the law into their own hands. Law classes have helped inmates launch their own appeals and defend themselves in court.

In a classroom behind bars, three inmates and a prison officer learn the basics of common law.

Inmate Rose Musyoki said these classes have given her the chance of a lifetime.

“It has been my childhood dream to do law, but due to some unavoidable circumstances like lack of finance, I've not been able to do it," said Musyoki. "So when this chance came in I gave it a trial, and now I'm in it, I'm doing it.”

Applied learning

And already, she's put her lessons into practice, successfully helping another inmate to appeal a sentence for kidnapping by arguing that the accused was under duress at the time.

“When she went there, the prosecution had nothing against her. They never even said anything, when she raised just that defense, the prosecution was asked, 'Do you have anything against her?' He said, 'No, your honor.' That was a big achievement,” said Musyoki.

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This Convict’s Plea To Take College Classes Behind Bars Will Change How You See Prison Education

Image courtesy citylimits.org

Image courtesy citylimits.org

By Casey Harper

In a New York prison, one convict is asking for a college education behind bars.

John J. Lennon, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, says inmates are constantly inundated with television, and that what flashes on the TV screen is a focal point of prison life. While watching TV is hardly punishment, Lennon says in a New York Times editorial that the technology is missing out on a cheap, easy way to educate prisoners and reduce recidivism.

“What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3?,” Lennon said. “Companies like Coursera already record university lectures — in subjects like psychology, sociology, existentialism, economics and political science — and stream them online for free. The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.”

Lennon was convicted of drug dealing and murder in 2004 and entered prison in his 20′s with a ninth grade education and a 28-year sentence. He points to the decline of prison education programs as a reason for high recidivism rates.

“When the colleges left, the hope did, too, and when uneducated prisoners get out, they often come back,” Lennon said.

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The Next Tech Boom Is Taking Place Behind Bars

By Joseph Erbentraut

When San Francisco-based venture capitalists Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti walked into San Quentin State Prison in 2010 to speak with a group of inmates that a friend was mentoring, they didn’t know what exactly to expect.

But the men behind bars, whom Redlitz described as “the most engaged audience I’ve ever spoken to,” blew him away with their enthusiasm -- and business plans. That means a lot given Redlitz's extensive background advising and investing in digital media and tech startups such as LevelUp, Wish and Bottlenose through his work with Transmedia Capital.

The experience at San Quentin, Redlitz said, started him thinking: What if they created something to engage those men, sitting idle for years upon years in California’s oldest prison, and help them turn their ideas into reality? Parenti was “not enamored” with the idea, he recalled.

Putting skepticism aside, they began to research prison programs in the United States, and that same year their passion project was born: The Last Mile. TLM is an intensive tech entrepreneurship program for San Quentin inmates that Redlitz and Parenti hope can be a model for prison education.

“[The inmates] have no sort of attachment or information or exposure to the people from the outside. They don’t have a conduit to it,” Redlitz said. “I figured we could leverage the relationships we have in Silicon Valley and be that conduit to others, for them to be educated and get involved.”

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Conference to Focus on Prison Education Awareness

Image courtesy stateuniversity.com

Image courtesy stateuniversity.com

By Aneka Otte

When one thinks about a traditional classroom, he or she might envision rows of desks, chalkboards or computers, maybe windows overlooking a school campus.

Arizona State University’s Prison Education Awareness Club invites the public to learn about a different type of classroom – one enclosed by walls, fences and prison bars.

On March 27, the club hosts the 4th Annual Prison Education Conference, where attendees will explore educational programming in U.S. prisons. The conference will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Memorial Union Turquoise Room on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Kyes Stevens, founder of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, will present the keynote address, “Building a Line, Drawing a Poem: APAEP.”

Stevens’ project has brought literature and art classes to prisons throughout Alabama, offering inmates a creative outlet. The project and similar programs not only encourage those incarcerated toward a more productive use of their time, but also nurture self-confidence and self-worth.

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Investment Guru Teaches Financial Literacy While Serving Life Sentence

Image courtesy The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Image courtesy The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

By Editor of Radio WPSU

Prison is perhaps the last place anyone would expect to learn about investing and money management.

But at San Quentin Prison, Curtis Carroll's class is a hot item. The 36-year-old has gained a reputation for his stock-picking prowess. He's even earned the nickname "Wall Street."

Carroll and prison officials have teamed up to create a financial education class for inmates. He starts off the class with a motivational speech.

"Financial education for me has been a lifesaver," he says. "And I have always been passionate about trying to make money. The problem with that money is it was focused in the wrong area — crime."

Carroll is serving up to life in prison for a murder he committed when he was 15. When he first entered, he was illiterate. Then one day Carroll grabbed what he thought was the sports page of a newspaper so his cellmate could read it to him. What he actually picked up was the business section. An older inmate asked Carroll if he knew anything about markets.

"I was like, 'The markets what?' " he says. "And he was like, 'Man, that's the stocks.' And I was really like, 'Man, nah.' "

The inmate then told Carroll that's where white people keep their money.

"I was like, 'Whoa, white folks?' I mean, anywhere white people make their money I want to be there," he says. "You know, growing up in the neighborhood everything was always associated with white prosperity, black not."

Carroll scraped together hundreds of dollars by cashing in unused postage stamps he acquired selling tobacco to prisoners. His first investment was in high-risk penny stocks, making just enough money to keep investing. The whole process motivated him to learn to read. Now, Carroll makes thousands of investments. He maintains notebooks filled with the daily stock price fluctuations of hundreds of companies.

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I Teach Philosophy at Columbia. But Some of My Best Students are Inmates

Image courtesy irasov.com

Image courtesy irasov.com

By Christia Mercer

On a recent Friday night, a student and I were playing dead on the cold linoleum floor of a prison. The woman standing over us was proudly proclaiming the coldblooded murder of her no-good husband and his unwilling mistress. As professor at Columbia University, I’ve asked lots of students to act out this 2,500 year-old scene from Aeschylus’ “Oresteia.” That night, surrounded by women who have spent years in prison, the power of those words increased ten-fold.

My incarcerated students differ radically from the ones at Columbia. When I walk into a tidy, well-equipped classroom on Morningside campus, I know my undergrads have spent years preparing for academic achievement, supported by family and teachers. Trained to ask hard questions, they consider diverse perspectives and then expect to get to the bottom of things.

When a correctional officer escorts me into a prison room equipped with rickety tables, tangled Venetian blinds, and no chalk, I know my incarcerated students have been locked away for years – sometimes for decades — with virtually no opportunity for intellectual stimulation. The culture they inhabit punishes people for asking questions. Solitary confinement is often the reward for any form of precocity. As one woman explained, “If you ask too many questions in here, you’ll be punished for having the wrong attitude.” The lesson is to keep your head down.

My main goal as a teacher in prison has been to create a space comfortable enough for exploration and insight. The circumstance does not make that easy. With a heating system so loud we can barely hear ourselves think and a correctional officer randomly peering through a window in the classroom wall, it’s easy to be distracted. A quick trip to the bathroom is overseen, and class ends not at the scheduled time, but when it suits the schedule of others. Although every aspect of my students’ lives is controlled, down to the details of their drab green uniforms, our class begins at the whim of the correctional officer on duty. “Welcome to our world,” mumbled one student.

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College for Convicts

Image courtesy facebook.com

Image courtesy facebook.com

By Kaitlin Mulhere

Twenty-five miles from Montgomery, Ala., in the middle of the tough-on-crime, fiscally conservative Deep South, sits an unusual place of learning.

A 20-foot fence with razor wire surrounds the campus. Armed guards stand at the entrances. Students wear jumpsuits, with ID numbers printed on the right side of the chest.

This is J. F. Ingram State Technical College, where every student is incarcerated. The college was created by the state in 1965, and it is adjacent to one prison but offers programs in eight others.

It's a member of Alabama’s community college system, but does not grant two-year degrees. In response to budget cuts, Ingram suspended its associate degree offerings last year. 

College leaders see Ingram as part of the solution to a state prison system marred by severe overcrowding, poor inmate medical care, sexual abuse of female prisoners and the threat of a federal takeover. 

But being part of the solution requires adequate funding, they say. In the past several years, the college’s portion of state prison education funding has dropped by 25 percent. Job openings have gone unfilled. The student head count has dropped almost 30 percent since 2008.

As a state community college created solely for inmates, Ingram is unique. Its struggle for money is anything but.

During the recession, state corrections departments reported an average 6 percent decline in money for educational programs, according to a 2013 report. That measures all types of correctional education funding. In many states, the trends in government support for postsecondary correctional education are even bleaker.

But there are signs of a shift in momentum. The U.S. Department of Education may explore the possibility of bringing back Pell Grants to prisoners, while a handful of state legislatures have considered changing laws that block prisoners’ access to college courses. There’s also a huge push from private foundations to demonstrate the successful college-in-prison models.

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Transgender Prisoner Denied Adequate Treatment Hangs Herself

By Christopher Zoukis

Petersburg, Virginia: At approximately 2:30 PM on February 24, 2015, Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg Medium inmate Ashley Jean Arnold (given name: Steven Roy Arnold), 32, ended her life by hanging herself in her prison cell. Arnold had sought medical and psychological care for her gender dysphoria in the two years leading up to her death, but prison officials repeatedly delayed care rendered and denied additional treatment components requested.

Born a biological male, Arnold served in the U.S. Navy as a fighter jet mechanic and even won an award for being sailor of the year for her squadron prior to being indicted and convicted of federal criminal charges related to child pornography. She was sentenced to a term of 300 months in federal prison and housed at FCI Petersburg.

For several years Arnold sought expanded access to medical and psychological care for her gender dysphoria (which the Federal Bureau of Prisons calls gender identity disorder). She sought treatment in line with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the only such standards of care for the treatment of transgender individuals, which includes hormone replacement therapy, real-life experience, counseling and other treatment methodologies designed to help transgender individuals transition from their biological gender to their chosen gender. The Federal Bureau of Prisons repeatedly rebuffed Arnold’s efforts at seeking help.

In July 2013, Arnold filed suit against prison officials in the Eastern District of Virginia (Arnold v. Wilson, Case No. 1:13cv900), alleging deliberate indifference and violations of her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. On December 23, 2014, United States District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema granted the government  summary judgment, deciding that prison officials were not deliberately indifferent to Arnold’s serious medical needs and had not subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment. While Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin T. Hickman represented the Federal Bureau of Prisons, jailhouse lawyers Sangye Rinchen and Christopher Zoukis assisted Arnold from their prison’s law library. While Ashley filed a notice of appeal, she took her life before the appeal could proceed.

Arnold’s cause is currently being advanced by jailhouse lawyers Rinchen and Zoukis, who are actively petitioning the Department of Justice to open a criminal inquiry into the sexual harassment and retaliation that specific prison officials exerted against Arnold leading up to her tragic death.

Zoukis can be reached for comment, interviews and supporting documentation at the following address:

Christopher Zoukis

FCI Petersburg

P.O. Box 1000, #22132-058

Petersburg, VA 23804

(Published by Prison Legal News; used by permission)

Update: Ohio University's Print Degree Programs

Image courtesy bizjournal.com

Image courtesy bizjournal.com

Ms. Kristi Large was kind enough to contact PrisonEducation.com with the following information about Ohio University's distance education programs.

I am writing from Ohio University eLearning. We are the department that handles online and distance education at Ohio University.

I'd like to give you an updated link to use on your Programs for Prisoners page when you link to Ohio University. The Ohio University eCampus homepage houses correctional education information, and it is much easier for an interested party to find the appropriate programs through this link.


(You will see a link to correctional education information conveniently located in the header).

I'd also like to note that the degrees listed there are completed by taking print correspondence courses. We offer associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and paralegal studies certificates in print format. You can learn more about these programs at this page: http://www.ohio.edu/ecampus/print/correctional/index.htm

Kristi Large
Interactive Marketing Specialist
Ohio University eLearning

'Paper City' Documentary About Education-Prison Connection

By Michelle Williams

A documentary about the Paper City will be screened in Monson this weekend with a discussion about the "school-to-prison pipeline" to follow.

The film explores the intersection of education, drugs and prison in Holyoke, through the narrative of native Holyoke resident Iesha Ramos. It was shot and directed by a then-Hampshire College student Akil Gibbons.

"Paper City" is about the American dream in one of the nation's arson capitals. The film examines the school-to-prison pipeline -- the nation-wide phenomenon in which high dropout rates coincide with mass incarceration of urban youth," Gibbons said. "The American dream today is achieved through education. If you don't have a high school diploma, which many in Holyoke feel unable to attain."

Gibbons interviews Holyoke officials in the film, including Assistant School Superintendent Paul Hyry-Dermith, Holyoke Police Officer Victor Heredia and Mayor Alex B. Morse.

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