In Search of Post-Secondary Prison Programs -- Ray Brook

By George Hook

I did not want to blow the whistle.  I just wanted to search for available post-secondary prison programs.  I thought the best place to start was with any statement in that regard made by the Bureau of Prisons' overseer, the Department of Justice ("DOJ").  What I found was this statement from Bridges to Opportunity--Federal Adult Education Programs For the 21st Century Report to the President on Executive Order 13445, U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education, dated July 2008 at p.18:

"Federal Prison Inmate Scholarship U.S. Department of Justice, Inmate Paid Postsecondary U.S. Department of Justice Education ProgramRay Brook, N.Y. The purpose of the Inmate Paid Postsecondary Education Program is to provide inmates incarcerated at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution opportunities to enroll in postsecondary education programs and receive college credits from the North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, N.Y [3 miles away]. The program serves approximately, 50–60 federal inmates housed at the federal correctional institution. Federal inmates are not eligible to receive Pell Grants to fund postsecondary studies. The Education Department at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution has established a partnership with the local community college to offer an on-site college program. Professors provide instruction to the inmate in the prison setting. Inmate students receive community college credits that are transferable to the State University of New York. Inmates pay for the costs of tuition and books from personal funds. The program enhances educational program options for inmates, allowing them to pursue a college degree without using federally appropriated funds."

In this report of the Department of Education to the President, the DOJ appeared to be portraying this Ray Brook program as but one example of the many post-secondary programs the BOP offered prisoners at federal prison facilities.

Next, I accessed the "INMATE INFORMATION HANDBOOK FCI RAY BOOK (sic), NEW YORK," and found the following at p. 10:

"C. EDUCATION PROGRAMS: The Education Department offers a wide variety of academic and vocational programs, ranging from adult literacy to post-secondary studies through correspondence."

This suggested to me that the on-site educational activity at Ray Brook had ceased and that post-secondary education would be conducted via correspondence instead.

However, upon accessing the North Country Community College Catalogue and website I discovered that the College provides off-campus courses via the Internet, but not correspondence.

Believing that courses delivered via Internet are not yet permitted in federal prison facilities, I concluded that, contrary to the assertions of DOJ, the BOP did not make available at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution any post-secondary education programs, at least not through the nearby North Country Community College.

So does Ray Brook/NCCC remain the example of post-secondary program availability in the federal prisons?    If so, it is a shame!