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Life from "F"s to "A"s

By Wayne T. Dowdy  Image courtesy

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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Inmate Search: How to Locate a State or Federal Inmate

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Once a criminal defendant has been found guilty and sentenced to a term of incarceration, they effectively become the property of either the Federal Bureau of Prisons or their state's department of corrections.  Once incarcerated, their ability to control their housing location and communication with the outside world is severely curtailed.  This article strives to assist family members, friends, and attorneys of state and federal prisoners in locating their incarcerated loved ones and clients through the means of inmate search tools.

What is the Difference Between a State and Federal Inmate?

The United States is divided into a number of law enforcement jurisdictions.  For the most part, states govern crimes committed within their borders, although the federal government can also prosecute crimes committed in any state, as long as the crime violates federal law.  Due to this duplicity, a resident of any state in the nation (or U.S. territory) can be charged with either a state or federal crime.

The difference between a state and federal inmate lies in the crime that was committed and which law enforcement agency is investigating and prosecuting the case.  For example, stealing beer from a local grocery store would most likely be a state crime, while robbing a federal credit union is most likely a federal crime.  There are also several crimes that violate both state and federal law.  For example, criminal defendants charged with possession or production of child pornography are technically violating both state and federal criminal statutes.  As such, they could be charged either in state court (which provides for sentences measured in months or years for this conduct) or federal court (which provides for sentences measured in years and decades for this type of conduct.).

How Can You Locate a Prisoner?

Locating a state or federal prisoner is not like locating someone outside of prison.  There is no 411 to call, telephone book to search through, online inmate yellow pages, or an app to help in the location process.  Instead, there are online inmate locators; search tools which help those outside of prison locate those in prison.  These inmate locators consist of web pages where the user can input the inmate's first name, last name, and/or registration number and receive certain information.

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New Children's Book Helps Imprisoned Parents

By  Image courtesy

Being a parent is a tough job.  Prison doesn't make that job any easier. Between 1991 and mid-year 2007 parents held in state and federal prisons increased by 79%, to 357,300 parents (Bureau Of Justice Statistics). This makes being an imprisoned parent a bigger challenge than the general public is aware of. Recently the Education Department in Forrest City Medium (BOP) re-opened its Parenting Program (Adult Continuing Education) after nearly a year of cessation. The program allows imprisoned parents special visitation privileges with their children, if they complete the course. Among the austere white-washed halls of the Education building, family photos are stapled to a single bulletin board between class-rooms. The photos were taken during participants’ visits. Speaking with one of the men revealed that it was his first such interaction with his granddaughter in 6 years. They blew bubbles and read children's books together.

The Parenting Program Coordinator, Mrs. Boothe says, "It really helps some of the guys to see they can do something with their kids." Unfortunately these visits are limited to weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and require some families to travel more than 500 miles each time they visit. Due to the uncertainty of the program’s operation, many participants are struggling to find space in the class room on Wednesday nights. There just aren't enough seats for everyone who wants and needs to attend. Telling them to wait can lead to an emotional exchange. They know when the program shuts down so do the privileges.

The key to good parenting, according to the course curriculum, resides in communication and authenticity. But reaching the 1.7 million children who have a parent in prison in the U.S. (Bureau Of Justice Statistics) can be daunting. Due to the barriers faced by parents in prison, they have to rely on cards, letters and gifts from loved ones on their behalf. But in the search for effective tools parents have gained something special in Hungry Robot. It is the first volume in a series of Children's books featuring a signature cautionary theme against self-saturation and materialism from an author who knows.

The author is serving a 35 year sentence for armed bank robbery. Hungry Robot was inspired by a real life transformation which resulted in a new direction. The book endeavors to communicate this transformative message to children so that – hopefully – they don’t have to learn the lesson the hard way.  Parents know that small connections make each moment count, and nothing works like the written word, along with colorful pictures. The book, written by Anthony Tinsman, is available on as an e-book for only $2.99 (download a free Kindle app for all e-readers).

In today’s world, independent authors depend upon readers’ reviews.  So please take a moment and leave a brief review of the book after you read it.  Your review can literally breathe life into a book.


5 Steps to Enrolling in College from Prison

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Enrolling in college from prison is no easy task.  There is the bureaucratic red tape to overcome, an endemic culture of failure, and prison staff members who are more interested in punching a clock than engaging in any form of actual work.  But fear not, with persistence, dedication, and a bit of planning, a college education obtained while in prison is possible.

This article presents the five essential steps to enrolling in college from prison.  By following these steps, any incarcerated students can learn their prison's regulations concerning correspondence education, locate quality correspondence programs, obtain authorization to enroll in the courses, and order their first set of college courses.

Step One: Review Prison's Applicable Policies and Regulations

The first step when engaging in any type of major project is to learn the rules, policies, and procedures surrounding it.  This is doubly so in prison, where regulations strictly dictate what is permitted within the confines of the correctional facility, and when breaking these rules and regulations can have very serious, life-altering consequences.

Unfortunately for inmates, there is no clear-cut way of learning what the policies and procedures are for enrolling in college from prison.  Generally speaking, a lack of information is the rule.  With this in mind, the inmate should go to their law library (if their correctional facility has one) and search for any regulations or program statements (sometimes called "policy statements") on correspondence programs and college correspondence courses (sometimes called "post-secondary correctional education courses").  In prison systems like the Federal Bureau of Prisons, every facility has an electronic law library where this information can be easily obtained.  In prison systems that lack law libraries, the inmate should approach education staff and inquire about any policies and procedures concerning correspondence programs.

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By Wayne T. Dowdy  Image courtesy

I am sending this out to provide what I hope to be helpful information for interested persons, or for anyone willing to share the information with a new or aspiring writer, who will capitalize on the following social media outlets:  Wattpad, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook Fan Pages, Blogs & Press Releases.  Readers and social media socialites may equally find something helpful.  Feel free to share this with others.


Wattpad is the social networking site for writers and readers that provides an outlet for writers to post their writings for readers to read for free.  Check it out.  Wattpad recently started offering users the possibility to raise funds for their projects, like Kickstarter.

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Controlling the Narrative

Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post made headlines after being confronted, assaulted and arrested without justification in Ferguson, Missouri.  At almost the same time a television crew from Al Jazeera America watched helplessly as SWAT teams lobbed tear gas at them.  The Al Jazeera crew was filming a protest. 

In this video, RT's Ameera David talks with Christopher Chambers, professor of journalism at Georgetown University, about what is taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. 


Entertainment in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons provides inmates with a number of avenues of entertainment.  These avenues include personal FM radios, community televisions, personal MP3 players, and institutional movies.  These forms of entertainment are offered in an effort to reduce inmate idleness and the ills that come along with it.


Personal FM/AM radios have been a mainstay of prison culture for decades.  Available for purchase through institutional commissaries at a price of around $40, most inmates purchase one.  These radios are of the Walkman-variety, operate on two or three batteries, and are required to listen to the televisions in the inmate housing units.


Inmates incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons are not permitted to purchase personal televisions, instead they are allowed to utilize communal TVs in inmate housing units and, at some federal prisons, in recreation departments.  Most of these televisions are usually mounted high up on support beams so that they cannot easily be tampered with, and programming can either be determined by majority vote or by the prison's administration.  The external speakers are removed from these TVs, and FM modulators are connected to them.  Thus, inmates must purchase personal radios and tune these radios into specific FM frequencies in order to hear programming.  There are usually several such communal televisions in each housing unit, and each one is set to a specific type of programming (e.g., movies, news, sports, Spanish stations, etc.).

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