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Wednesday
Sep172014

Prison Education: The Ultimate, Undeserved Freebie?

In this video, Richard French examines the idea of providing education for prisoners.  Although the idea sounds like the "ultimate undeserved freebie," close inspection of programs such as Hudson Link prove that prison education turns around lives, reduces recidivism, saves money and redounds to the advantage of communities. 

Tuesday
Sep162014

How Prison Health Care Could Reduce Rearrest Rates

By Christopher Zoukis

Recidivism is a growing problem in the United States.  There are many factors that cause released inmates to return to a life of crime and, eventual, incarceration.  Fewer opportunities, lack of access to prison education, lack of sustainable employment, and other factors contribute to America's sky high recidivism rates.  But another factor, which is not often considered, is also worth a hard look: health care in American prisons. 

Image courtesy www.pewtrusts.org-

Every year approximately 600,000 U.S. inmates are released from correctional custody.  Many of these men and women are released from prison with chronic physical or mental illness.  Few of those released have access to meaningful private health care or are knowledgeable about the public health care system.  Many of the physically and mentally ill former prisoners end up becoming a drain on local, state, and national economies simply because they don't have the capability to improve their own mental or physical health and thus can't live a productive, respectable life.

Why Lack of Health Care May Increase Recidivism

Due to the aforementioned issues, there appears to be a correlation between recidivism and access to meaningful prison healthcare; a lack of prison healthcare appears to result in enhanced recidivism rates, and the reverse is also true.  Furthermore, there is a decrease in rearrests for those in low income communities who have access to healthcare.  One is left to wonder, how come enhanced access to healthcare results in reduced re-arrest and recidivism rates?

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Monday
Sep152014

Call for Submissions from Prisoner-Writers

 Image courtesy thetfs.caResearch is the foundation of all non-fiction manuscripts. Prisoners, Academics, Volunteers, and anyone who has direct experience with prisoners' communication with the press or publishing manuscripts from prison can now contribute stories for consideration in a new book which covers legal, technical, and personal issues of writing, publishing and promoting books from prison. The book will explore the impact prison has on 1st Amendment rights, Program Statement (BOP) P.5350.27 "Inmate Manuscripts", and copyright registration among many other relevant topics. The book is scheduled to be published on July, 15, 2015. 

The author/editor, Anthony Tinsman, is a first time offender serving a 35 year sentence. He is a PEN award winner, author of "Hungry Robot" and Program Developer of "Take a Load Off," an evidence-based prisoner reentry program. His next project involves an information-packed series for prisoners. His first book in this series will provide information to prisoners interested in developing writing careers before their release. This is an opportunity for writers in prison to have their stories told in a professional book that will receive wide exposure.

To have a story considered for use please answer the following questions in your submission:

Q: How did you begin writing in prison and what have you learned?

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Q: List your bio (short or long).

Q: List all books you have published, awards or relevant achievements.

Q: Provide as many details as you like about your length of sentence and prisons in which you have served time.

Writers who have been selected for the upcoming book are award winning author Michael Collins "Graded Expectations" (2014), Amazon Best Seller Kevin Bullock "Daddy Dearest" (Triple Crown Press, 2003), and Brandon Sample, Executive Director of Prisology. Every prison related writer is welcome to submit. Stories from well-established authors are also required, like Michael G. Santos author of "Inside: Life Behind Bars in America" (St. Martins Griffin, 2006), Christopher Zoukis "College for Convicts" (available soon), and Stephen C. Richards "Behind Bars" (Alpha, 2003).

All manuscripts should be 500 - 800 words. Include a signed agreement allowing the author and future publisher to use your materials. Typed submissions are preferred but handwritten manuscripts will be considered. Please forward submissions before January 1st to: Anthony Tinsman #04276-063, FCC PO BOX 3000, Forrest City, AR., 72336.

Thursday
Sep112014

Another Exciting Day In Seagoville

By Jason Neff

I'm struggling this morning to not fly off the handle. As usual I'm beyond frustrated dealing with the incompetence, and ridiculous bullshit that is the norm in the Bureau of Prisons.

Counselor Bob De la Torre arrives at my cell pushing a cart with a box. He mentions my lawyer was waiting out front to pick up boxes of my legal work.

About a week after returning from the hole, I was given some of my property, but Lt. Montgomery would not permit me to have 2 boxes of discovery, claiming they were books, and I had too many already. When in reality the bag he thought was my property that contained several books belonged to another inmate who had returned from the hole over a month ago. It was his property which was never returned to him. Upon going through the voluminous disarray of my new property contained in trash bags, I realized it wasn't all mine, and based upon the book selections another inmate helped me locate the correct owner, who was quite happy. Of course with property lists and procedure for securing property, one has to question how this is so commonplace. The guy mentioned when he returned from the hole, they had even given him someone else’s stuff and failed to return his property. The property given to him by SHU (Special Housing Unit, which is what they refer to as the hole, solitary, segregation in the feds) Property Officer B. Jones was random mail, and family photos of an inmate who had just left to prison that had been in the hole.

Anyhow, I went into my cell with this empty box provided from the counselor standing at my cell door, quickly stacked legal papers inside, added a photo album, stacks of pictures that were somehow mostly damaged through my transfer to the hole by staff, and a few stacks of envelopes and letters I've received over the last few years.

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Wednesday
Sep102014

Prison Education: A Reward for Crime or a Tool to Stop It

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy www.prisoneducationproject.org-

A National Network of Prison Education Programs

The 1980s were a period of expansion for prison education programs.  Through the vehicle of federal financial assistance, inmates were able to enroll in vocational and college courses in their prisons, programs offered through community colleges and state universities alike.  For a period, prisoners had a meaningful chance at learning a quality trade or even earning an associate's or bachelor's college degree during their term of imprisonment.  Over 350 in-prison college programs flourished, with professors teaching classes "live," in the prisons.

The Collapse: Congress Slams the Door on Education in Prison

All of this came to a screeching halt with the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The Act, a component of the anti-prison education agenda pushed in Congress and the Senate, imposed a ban on inmates receiving any form of federal financial aid to assist them in the pursuit of an education.  With the slashed funding, nearly every externally supported prison education program in the nation shut down, and the result was an increase in prisoner unrest, violence, and recidivism.  Colleges, prisoners, and prison administrators alike objected, and loudly so, but their pleas fell upon deaf ears.

Advocates for eliminating Pell Grants and other need-based financial assistance for prisoners claimed that those incarcerated shouldn't be given government funding to pursue education.  They advanced an agenda asserting that prisoners were taking funding away from traditional college students -- a patently false assertion -- and that offering college to inmates was a reward for crime.  Some even had the gall to suggest that people were committing crimes in order to go to prison, where they could obtain a college education.  It was a political firestorm like no other, and one based on emotion, not fact, logic, or empirical research.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Starting Rehabilitation Early, at Arizona's Coconino County Jail

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy washingtonpost.com

America's county jails can be a challenging environment, both for their inmates, and for those seeking to provide educational and rehabilitative programs.  There is a high turnover of inmates, who typically stay only a short time, and who tend to be anxious and preoccupied with their pending court cases.

At Coconino County Jail in central Arizona, the average stay is just one week, though in part that reflects many who only stay overnight; other inmates remain at the jail for many months.  Because of these challenges county jails are usually seen simply as staging posts.  Rehabilitative programs are given a low priority and inmates spend most of their time watching television, reading, or playing cards.  In Coconino County, however, Sheriff Pribil sees this as a wasted opportunity, and he has shown that he's prepared to do something about it.

Coconino County Jail's drug treatment program has cast the jail's general education programs in a less favorable light, and shown them to be in need of improvement.  To begin this process, Sheriff Pribil appeared before the Coconino County Supervisors on March 12, 2014 to request approximately $70,000 of additional funds in order to hire an educational coordinator for the jail.  Impressed by the success of the Exodus program, the Supervisors unanimously approved.

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Monday
Sep082014

Life from "F"s to "A"s

By Wayne T. Dowdy  Image courtesy prisoneducation.com

I hated haircuts and going to school when I was a child. I made straight "F"s in the public school system and eventually dropped out because I kept getting expelled for disruptive behavior. I thought I was dumb because of my straight F average. Now I feel the low self-opinion came from the negative criticism I received regularly. Anyway, things change. Today I cut my own hair and wear it relatively short, and regret that I used to be disruptive and disobedient and hated school. I value the education I have since obtained.

At fifteen-years-old, on the second day of school (I had skipped the first day), the principal expelled me for the remainder of the school year for throwing a book at a teacher. I was already on Aftercare/Probation because I had served time at the Youth Development Center in Augusta, Georgia for drug charges and stealing a car, so the court made me go to school at the Juvenile Detention Center in Clayton County. I was the only one in the class the teacher allowed to listen to music while doing class assignments. He let me use headphones to listen to vinyl records on what would now be viewed as an ancient record player. He also let me work at my own pace. I excelled in all areas of study, but when I returned to the public arena, I succeeded only in getting expelled again for the rest of the year. A teacher caught me coming out of the girls’ bathroom, where I had been inside smoking with a wannabe-girlfriend. He reached to grasp my arm and I yanked away and used several expletives to tell him to keep his hands off of me, which he did due to his fear of being assaulted. After that, I gave up on the school scene and stopped trying, which ultimately lead to me getting my education in the prison system--not a wise choice.

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