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Amnesty International's Write for Rights 2013 a Success

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtes

Another year has passed and another successful Write for Rights campaign has been fulfilled by our friends at Amnesty International.  And quite a campaign it has proven to be.

Write for Rights, a project organized by Amnesty International, is an annual campaign based on the concept that when massive amounts of attention are focused on real-word problems that real-world solutions will be realized.  In effect, Write for Rights is a worldwide letter writing campaign focused on demanding the release of -- and improved conditions of confinement for -- political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience.

The success of Write for Rights is simple, even if its orchestration is anything but that.  Prison administrators and politicians can ignore a single letter, email, text message, or phone call.  These can be easily swept under the rug and hid from the light of day.  But can they ignore 10, 50, 100 letters, or how about two million?  Obviously, as the number grows larger, the harder it becomes to ignore the demands and public scrutiny.  And in 2013, 1.9 million communications were made to prison officials worldwide as part of Amnesty International's Write for Rights 2012.

Write for Rights 2013 was even more successful, with 2.3 million communications sent from hundreds of thousands of project supporters worldwide.  In fact, the campaign

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Bamboo School for Children to be Built in Nepali Prison

By Christopher Zoukis

Incarcerated parents in Nepal's Birgunj prison are celebrating as plans have been made to create a school inside the prison facility for their children to attend.  The school will be located inside the Birgunj prison, which is located roughly 300 kilometers south of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.  Photo courtesy

In a move inspired by the Mumbai Film industry, the school house will be built much like temporary movie sets are in Nepal: with bamboo, which is both inexpensive, very strong, and very easy to quickly construct.  Prison officials state that they hope to have the ten-room school building constructed within a month.

Even the incarcerated parents are allowed to contribute to the construction project, which will help to connect them with their young children.  This contribution to the project, say some of the prisoners, gives them a tangible means of making a difference in the lives of their children.  They no longer feel hopeless to positively impact the lives of their children.  And once the school is built, the incarcerated parents will have much more opportunity to help their children not make the same poor decisions that they did which led to their imprisonment.

Once complete, the prison school will provide coursework for up to 250 students, aged 3 to 10, who have parents in the Birgunj prison.  Classes are scheduled to start in mid-April.  Students will be taught for free, a novelty in the region.

The benefits of a school for young children inside the Birgunj prison are plentiful.  Proponents of the project assert that this will help incarcerated parents stay connected with their children and keep an eye on them.  Likewise, since many of these children have reported having low self-esteem and a general lack of hope, being able to study with others in the same situation (i.e., with a parent in prison) will help them not feel ostracized by their peers.  And this reduced social stigmatization could make all the difference in the world as the children grow and learn and, hopefully, succeed.

To learn more about the Birgunj prison's school for children of incarcerated parents, go to


Directory of Federal Prisons Released

By Christopher Zoukis 

Today we're proud to announce the release of Middle Street Publishing's first book, the Directory of Federal Prisons:'s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory by Christopher Zoukis and Dr. Randall Radic.

For those who don't yet know, the Directory of Federal Prisons is an ebook project which provides basic character profiles and the contact information for every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and all private contract facilities.

The basic character profiles present the following information:

  • ·         Gender of Prisoners
  • ·         Security Level
  • ·         BOP Region
  • ·         Federal Judicial District
  • ·         Prison Population Number
  • ·         If there is an adjacent Satellite Prison Camp

The following contact information is presented within the ebook:

  • ·         Official Street Address
  • ·         Official Email Address
  • ·         Official Phone and Fax Numbers
  • ·         Inmate Correspondence Address

The goal of the Directory of Federal Prisons is to help connect family members, friends, attorneys, and others outside with those inside federal prisons.  In this manner, a line of communications can be established which can help prisoners litigate their cases, keep families together, and help prisoners when it comes time to reintegrate back into American society.  All of this, we feel, can be accomplished with the purchase of the $9.95 ebook.

At this current time, we're asking all Prison Education News readers to contribute to this project by purchasing a copy of the Directory of Federal Prisons, flipping through the ebook, writing a two or three sentence review, and providing a favorable star rating for the work.  The review and star rating can both be posted at Amazon, where most of our promotional efforts are focused.  Examples of good, short reviews can be found on the ebook's page on Amazon.

After we've managed to garner enough top star ratings and positive reviews, then Amazon will start promoting the work itself, and this will help to connect even more families with their incarcerated loved ones.


Open Books' Prison Book Project: Reforming Prisoners One Book at a Time

By Christopher Zoukis   Image courtesy

Even in the darkest of nights the moon gives off a faint glow.  The same is true of the world of American corrections, even in Florida's private prison paradise.  This light -- and the hope it brings -- comes from an unlikely source with an unusual mission: Open Books' Prison Book Project.

The Prison Book Project is a volunteer books-to-prisoners operation.  Founded in the year 2000, when it used to be based in the now closed Subterranean Books (Pensacola, Florida), it is presently hosted at Pensacola's Open Books.

Open Books, a nonprofit bookstore located at 1040 N. Guillemard Street in Pensacola, Florida is open every day from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  Its volunteer operators can be found selling discounted books to the public.  But on Wednesdays, the real transformational magic is breathed into being.

Every Wednesday, the Prison Book Project volunteers take over and get to work.  They open stacks of mail from prisoners across the state of Florida.  While they can handle around 40 requests each week (due to mailing expenses), they receive around 70 requests a week from prisoners seeking books, an outlet to something greater than their prison cells.  The backlog of hundreds of requests shows the value, importance, and respect prisoners have for this project.

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Texas Study on Postsecondary Correctional Education

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

In the field of correctional education there are numerous tools, different types of prison education programming which can be used to teach and treat our incarcerated students.  These include basic literacy, high school equivalency (often in the form of GED classes), Adult Continuing Education, Adult Basic Education, vocational training, college in prison, and more.  All of these are effective at helping our incarcerated students prepare for a law abiding life outside of prison.  All of these forms of correctional education programming have been shown to reduce recidivism, instances of prison misconduct, and victimization.  But the one proven time and time again to be the most effective is postsecondary correction education; college courses offered in prisons.  And with this knowledge, we examine one such correctional education study that proves this point, and emphatically so.

According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, one study on correctional education in Texas specifically looked at the costs and benefits of running college-level education programs for state prisoners.  For the 2004 year alone, they found the following:


  • ·         Texas spent $14,700 in incarceration costs per prisoner in 2004, totaling $2.4 billion for the State.
  • ·         Texas spent only $3.7 million (0.15 percent of the corrections' budget) on non-college correctional education, which equated to $382 per prison inmate.
  • ·         After including college costs in the equation, the State of Texas spent $3,082 per prisoner on education.


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Effects of Attending College in Prison: Prisoners, Their Children, and Society

By Christopher Zoukis

We in the prison education industry understand the amazing benefits of providing educational programming to prison inmates.  We see the light in our incarcerated students' eyes.  We see the dawning of understanding and enlightenment.  And we read the research which shows that correctional education programming is the single most effective tool in our battle against recidivism.  While there is no magic bullet for controlling crime, prison education is the closest thing we currently have.  This we loudly proclaim to our incarcerated students' delight and politicians' exasperation.   Image courtesy

All of this we've covered in significant detail in prior posts here at Prison Education News.  Today I'd like to discuss the ancillary benefits of prison education, those external to reductions in recidivism rates.  After all, prison education effects the whole person -- the incarcerated student -- not merely the statistical rate of former prisoners' recidivism.

In addition to a significant decrease in recidivism, those in postsecondary correctional education programming commit as much as 75 percent fewer disciplinary infractions than those not engaged in such educational programming, and have drastically improved self-esteem, communication ability, and self-reported hope for a better future.  Success improves the incarcerated students' belief that hard work will yield positive results, and it improves the relationship that inmates have with their families, in particular their children, both while serving their term of incarceration and, most importantly, upon release from correctional custody.  In short, the incarcerated students' outlooks on life -- and what is possible for them -- improves substantially as the level of correctional education increases.

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Postsecondary Correctional Education: College for Prison Inmates

By Christopher Zoukis

Studies have consistently shown that those imprisoned tend to have lower levels of formal, academic education.  Some have suggested that as many as half of U.S. prisoners are functionally illiterate -- implying an inability to read at a 6th grade reading level.  While the effects of providing basic literacy classes to prison inmates has the potential to significantly improve prisoner's post-release lives, and also has been proven to slash participants' recidivism rates, it is college-level education in prison that has consistently proven to be the most cost-effective, verifiable method of reducing recidivism.  Image courtesy

The research shows that the higher the level of education attained while in prison, the lower the recidivism rate and the higher post-release employment rates.  Nationwide, as many as 60 percent of released inmates recidivate within 3 to 5 years of release from correctional custody.  The numbers are worse -- albeit not substantially worse -- at the 10-year mark for the average American prisoner.

It has been shown on a consistent basis that prison inmates who further their education while in prison recidivate at a substantially lower rate than regular American prisoners.  While basic literacy, GED, Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Continuing Education (ACE), vocational training, and other, lower-level forms of prison education have consistently proven to lower recidivism rates, nothing has proven to be as effective as college in prison (called "Postsecondary Correctional Education" in the prison education field and academic literature).

The Journal of Correctional Education has shown that prisoners who attain an Associate's degree recidivate at rates in the 20th percentile, those who attain a Bachelor's degree recidivate at rates in the 10th percentile, and those with graduate degrees effectively don't recidivate at all (according to the Correctional Education Association's various studies and the Journal of Correctional Education's published meta-studies).

While educating prisoners might not feel like the most comfortable choice when viewed through the lens of punishment for crime and retribution for crime victims, it has proven again and again to be one of the smartest crime control methods we currently have at our disposal.  Prison education works.  It does not stop the initial instance of crime, but it does significantly reduce the instance of repeat crime.  And it also fights against the generational cycle of crime from incarcerated parent to future, incarcerated child.

It's time we stopped bickering about how prisoners should be treated.  It's time we stopped accepting a national corrections industry that devours $50 to $62 billion a year in taxpayer funds.  It's time to start supporting smart on crime control policies.  Postsecondary correctional education programming is chief among the available policies.