By Curtis Frye
College in Prison has been a hit with readers and writers alike. Author Bruce Micheals attributes the book's success to God's grace saying: "God inspired me to become a better person in Him, acquire a formal education, and write a book. Now the book is inspiring other prisoners to follow suit." College in Prison, appropriately subtitled "Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students," functions as a reference book for students in prison. The writing is a combination of inspiring Self-help and practical How-to set in an easy to follow step-by-step format.
From the beginning readers are guided through six chapters covering the essentials of earning, by correspondence, a college degree in prison. Suggestions are given for how to prepare for college level studies in prison, how to comply with prison policies concerning correspondence education, and how to gain support for college studies by staff and prisoners. This last item is especially important in College in Prison because as Jamie Meade, author and college senior at Lakeland Correctional Facility, says, "We are succeeding because we built a college program—the same program described in the book."
However, though clear instructions for establishing college programs in prison are given, chapters 7-9 concentrate on identifying the least expensive, fully accredited college correspondence programs in America. For instance, in chapter 9 dozens of specially selected college programs are ranked and described in detail. Course selection, tuition fees, and degree selection are just three of the many areas reported on each school. Occasional notes and suggestions geared toward helping readers save the most on education also make this section particularly appealing. Donald Bolton, previously enrolled in Ohio University's College Program for the Incarcerated (CPI), cut his tuition expenses almost in half by transferring to a higher ranked—less expensive—program listed in College in Prison. "I wish I'd had a copy of Bruce's book when I enrolled in my first few courses. I could have used that money to enroll in twice as many courses elsewhere, and I'd be closer to graduating today," says Bolton, another senior of the Lakeland College program.
Micheals gives readers plenty of encouragement to build prison-based college programs and to use the most affordable correspondence programs, but he seems to have saved the best inspiration and resources for last. "Since the beginning of my academic career in 2005, I have struggled to pay for school," admits Micheals. "Almost everyone who joins me in college struggles to raise tuition each semester, too. When it comes to finances, the life of an incarcerated student isn't so different from that of a campus student, I suppose: we scrape to get by. That is why I devoted 7 of 16 chapters to showing readers how to get sponsors, scholarships, college credits for life experience, and credits for high scores on various free and inexpensive tests."
David Hudson Bey, author of Gangsta Rap for the Youth, notes, "Bruce brought college back to the prison system. There are at least half a dozen guys on this compound alone that have been awarded scholarships based on what Bruce wrote in his book. We might not have Pell Grants anymore, but we can go to college if we really want to — his college group is proof of that." Perhaps it is, but College in Prison is helping more than just Michigan prisoners. Christopher Zoukis, author of Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security, recently invited Micheals to blog on his Internet site www.PrisonEducation.com and to write for Arkansas based Education Behind Bars Newsletter.
Priced at just $14.95 (plus $3.00 S/H) from the publisher, College in Prison (ISBN 978-1-4269-6453-4) is a bargain, but Micheals recommends ordering through www.barnesandnoble.com where copies are available for just $12.13 (plus $3.00 S/H).