Incarcerated Writer Christopher Zoukis Vindicated!

All Incident Reports Overturned and Expunged

After being issues three incident reports for allegedly conducting a business, Christopher Zoukis was recently vindicated once again.

After being issues three incident reports for allegedly conducting a business, Christopher Zoukis was recently vindicated once again.

By Middle Street Publishing

It is with great pride and joy that we at Middle Street Publishing share the terrific news that embattled prison writer Christopher Zoukis has been vindicated once again! He's now back available via email and can again make telephone calls from Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg following his victorious fight with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The History: The 2012 Incident Reports

In 2012, Chris was issued three incident reports for allegedly conducting a business. The alleged business was the free "Education Behind Bars Newsletter" (EBBN). Prison staff, led by Special Investigation Supervisor (SIS) Department agents, decided that the free EBBN was a business because the publisher accepted donations and advertisements to help defray her costs. Rather unsurprisingly, those involved with the publication disagreed.

As a result of the incident reports, Chris was confined to the FCI Petersburg Special Housing Unit (SHU) for five months and had his email and telephone restricted for over a year. While in the hole he managed to dodge a retaliatory transfer to USP Lee, a maximum-security federal prison. As a result of the ongoing harassment and retaliatory actions by FCI Petersburg staff, Chris and his family retained the services of renowned criminal defense attorneys Alan Ellis and Todd Bussert. Together they fought the BOP back into their corner. While it took some time, all three of the incident reports were eventually overturned on appeal and Chris' record was expunged.

Recent Events: The 2014 Incident Reports

In late 2014 Chris was again subjected to a series of retaliatory incident reports for his writing endeavors. This time SIS agents issued him four incident reports for allegedly conducting a business. The business this time included writing articles for "The Huffington Post," inquiring about the number of Facebook likes and Twitter tweets that his articles receive, asking a friend to start printing and mailing him his "Prison Legal News" writing assignments, offering to help a fellow prisoners' rights activist update his prison survival guide, and obtaining his own personal credit reports. For this he was sanctioned to nine months loss of email, six months loss of telephone, and three months loss of commissary and visitation.

As in 2012, Chris again retained the services of attorneys Alan Ellis and Todd Bussert. This time he also retained noted First Amendment attorneys Steve Rosenfield and Jeff Fogel. After seven months of fighting the Federal Bureau of Prisons, all of the adverse findings were overturned on appeal and Chris' record once again cleared.

The Path From Here

With Chris back in daily communications with us we proceed forward with our prison education and prisoners' rights advocacy. While we had to slow down somewhat due to communications being delayed, we can now push forward and make 2015 the year that it is meant to be. For PrisonEducation.com this means a new series of research papers and possibly a more robust section on in-prison and correspondence education programs for prisoners. For PrisonLawBlog.com this means a new, online directory of federal prisons which will provide information on every federal prison, along with a new design by the team at MKT Communications. And for ChristopherZoukis.com this means regular postings profiling Chris' reform and publication efforts.

As for Chris, while he's still under many levels of monitoring (after all, all of his emails, postal mail, and telephone calls are now monitored by SIS staff), he's looking forward to June when his next book, "Correspondence Courses for Prisoners," will be released by Prison Legal News Publishing. He's also looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and preparing for a series of interviews with CBS, NBC, and several websites and podcasts. In his words, "It's time to do what we do best: push forward and raise our voices for our brothers and sisters behind bars who don't have a voice loud enough to raise above the din of prison censorship."

We couldn't agree more.

College for Convicts Book Receives Award

Incarcerated writer Christopher Zoukis 
proves the case for Prisoner Education

Petersburg, VA - Eric Hoffer was a moral and social philosopher who was lauded as one of America’s free thinking writers and a champion for the underclass of working men. It’s interesting that a writer who is currently behind bars in FCI Petersburg has won an Eric Hoffer award - since his free thinking thoughts can be tough to get out of the prison system.

College for Convicts - The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons, published by McFarland & Company, has been awarded the Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book. His book advocates that while it may seem expensive to educate prisoners, the resulting drop in recidivism is worthwhile.

“It’s quite an honor for my book to receive the Montaigne Medal - given that it was named after Michel De Montaigne, who was passionate about education and the way it was taught. He believed in individualized learning so that everyone could benefit. That’s exactly what I hope to convey in my book,” says Zoukis.

"Incarcerated author Zoukis gives excellent examples to demonstrate that the US would benefit from higher education for inmates by preparing them for life after prison. The author cites statistics showing prisoners with higher education have a much lower recidivism rate, reducing prison overcrowding and saving society billions. The book ends with important appendices on the FBP's position, on becoming pen pals with prisoners, funding, free book, & more. A strongly suggested purchase. Highly recommended. All public & academic levels/libraries." - M. G. Meacham of Valdosta State University

Zoukis is a prison rights advocate who won the 2011 PEN American Center Prison Writing Award for two works, and is a member of the American Bar Association, National Writers Union and the American Civil Liberties Union. He contributes to the Huffington Post, Prison Legal News, and Blog Critics. For more information, visit his blog at www.christopherzoukis.com.

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To book an interview contact:
Rachel Sentes, Publicist, 604-366-7846
rachel@gal-fridaypublicity.com

What The U.S. Can Learn From Prison Reform Efforts Throughout The World

Image courtesy neontommy.com

Image courtesy neontommy.com

By Joseph Erbentraut

It should come as no surprise that with the worst incarceration rate in the world, the United States has a massive problem on its hands.

With roughly 716 of every 100,000 U.S. residents behind bars, the U.S. locks up nearly one-quarter of the entire world’s prison population. Worse yet, when American inmates are released, they are extremely likely to return. The most recent recidivism data for state prisoners, reported by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows 68 percent are back behind bars within three years.

Efforts to reduce the American prison population that are already underway, including a push for drug-sentencing reform and some new investments in rehabilitation programs, have had some success. Last year, the federal prison population declined for the first time in over a decade.

Still, there’s still a long way to go -- and a lot American policymakers could learn from progress made in other parts of the world. Here are some unexpected places where prison reform efforts are having an impact.

Norway: “Nature is a rehabilitation thing now”

In Norway, many prisons are “open,” allowing inmates to take part in recreational activities like swimming and tennis and to work in the facility’s farm or to repair bicycles, just to name a few examples. Inmates are housed in private cells in wooden cottages equipped with a flat-screen TV, a mini-refrigerator and a private bathroom.

One example of an open prison is Norway’s Halden facility, a 75-acre maximum-security prison surrounded by blueberry woods, just across the border from Sweden. It has been described as the “most humane” prison in the world. According to the New York Times, the modern facility is focused entirely on rehabilitation, as reflected by the Norwegian Correctional Service’s motto: “Better out than in.” The country has focused on job training, therapy and education since its corrections program was overhauled in 1998.

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Prisoners Train Shelter Dogs for Adoption

By Claudia Kawczynska

Seven years ago, in May of 2008, Monty’s Home in Southeastern North Carolina, received state approval to start its first Pawsitive Partners Prison Program (PPPP), in conjunction with the Pender Correctional Institution, in nearby Burgaw, NC. President and co-founder Barbara Rabb was on an educational mission to use her dog training skills to shelter dogs to make them more adoptable. Bringing her organizational skills to the task, she enlisted the services of other dog trainers and convinced the local correction facility to establish a prison pup program to provide basic companion dog training for pet dogs. Monty’s Home’s volunteers help train the inmate-trainers, and they select dogs who had met basic temperament evaluations from local shelters; they also assume costs such as vet bills, grooming supplies, food, toys, bedding, etc, all expenses associated with proper canine care and training.

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You'll have to break the law to use this unbreakable, unhackable Android tablet

Image courtesy Cheryl Hurd / NBC

Image courtesy Cheryl Hurd / NBC

By Andy Boxall

How would you like to use a specially modified, 7-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet, that’s not only almost unbreakable, but also extremely secure, after having been tinkered with by security experts to make it practically unhackable? Sound tempting? Well, it’s within most people’s grasp, but there is a caveat — you’re going to have to go to prison.

This is the APDS tablet, and it’s being sold to prisons for use by inmates. The prices vary between $600 and $1,000, which isn’t paid by the prisoner, but by the prison itself. Why would prisons spend so much money on an entertainment device for people who have broken the law, and given up their freedom?

It’s all about education. Statistics show that inmates who learn while incarcerated are far less likely to offend again when released. The tablet is designed as a supplement to prison educational programs, and paying out $1,000 for a tablet to enhance these programs is far more cost effective than the estimated $30,000 per year it costs to keep a prisoner locked up.

The approach is different to other technology companies working alongside for-profit prison systems, according to Christopher Grewe, CEO of APDS, who spoke to the International Business Times recently. He said rather than “selling pacification” by providing entertainment services on the tablet, APDS is about “selling education.” When the company was in its infancy back in 2013, APDS’s COO Adam Smith said its aim was to “supply education, rehabilitation, job training, and placement” to prisoners.

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Former Inmate Gives Back By Encouraging Others to Pursue Education

Gina McConnell-Otten / Image courtesy www.linkingcowlitzcounty.org

Gina McConnell-Otten / Image courtesy www.linkingcowlitzcounty.org

Shira Moskowitz

Gina McConnell-Otten turned 12 the day she ran away to escape her abusive home in Lake Stevens. She was 15 when she got addicted to cocaine and 29 when she served her first sentence in a Washington state corrections center on 17 felony counts for drugs, forgery, possession of stolen property and identity theft.

She later served another seven years on similar charges.

That was then. Now, the 45-year-old AmeriCorps volunteer has turned her life around by giving back to her community, staying free of drugs and setting an example for others that there is a chance at a productive life after prison.

“It doesn’t matter what prison you walk into in the state of Washington, they all smell the same and that’s the smell of a lack of hope,” said McConnell-Otten of Kalama.

She’s currently a teacher in Longview’s Goodwill Industries’ job and education training program and has spent the past three years stepping back into jail — this time, as an volunteer advocate who encourages female inmates to pursue a college education after they serve their time behind bars.

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Taking the Charter School Approach to Prison

By Andra Ghent

America spends a lot of money locking up a lot of people. Understandably, legislators are trying to find ways of cutting prison costs without increasing crime rates. One tactic legislators increasingly rely on to manage costs is private prisons. Research from the Sentencing Project shows that, between 1999 and 2010, the share of U.S. prisoners housed in private prisons grew by more than 50%. What those prisons need, however, is an incentive to do better than public institutions—and a hint from a successful part of the U.S. education system.

Legislators are right to harness the power of market incentives to reduce costs. Given the right economic incentives, the private sector can be more efficient and creative than government.

Yet private prisons are failing to do the two things they should do best: reducing costs and recidivism rates. Research from Yale University has shown that, after controlling for demographics and the type of crime committed, private prisons have higher recidivism rates than government-run prisons. Research from the University of Wisconsin has also shown that, compared with publicly operated prisons, private-prison inmates serve a larger fraction of their sentences and are more likely to receive an infraction for poor behavior that can prolong their prison stay.

While the Wisconsin research didn’t pinpoint the source of the increased infractions, there are two reasons private prisons have higher infractions. First, private prisons earn more revenue when inmates serve more of their sentence. Second, private prisons’ cost-cutting measures—such as reduced staffing and more cramped quarters—lead to more violence among inmates.

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The Uphill Battle to Make Prison Safer for Trans Women

Christopher Zoukis is a huge supporter of the struggles of trans gender people in prison, especially after a recent incident with a prisoner in Virginia. 

That's why I was so happy to contribute this article in Vice: 

http://www.vice.com/read/the-uphill-battle-to-make-prison-safer-for-trans-women

If you have a chance to read it we highly recommend it.

Photo of Ashley Jean Arnold by author.

Photo of Ashley Jean Arnold by author.

New documentary showcases life inside nation's first prison high school

PrisonEducation.com is excited to share news about an upcoming feature-length documentary that delves inside the first-ever high school built inside an adult prison in the United States.

Filmmakers Richard O’Connell and Annelise Wunderlich have just completed principal photography on The Corridor, a true-to-life depiction of the world inside Five Keys charter school at San Francisco County Jail. The film follows students, teachers and deputized staff at the 10-year-old school along their journey to graduation.

The film also shares our message at PrisonEducation.com: that education is key to reducing recidivism and is in the best interests of our society.

“Our goal is not to make the case for a restorative approach to criminal justice, nor is the film a promotion of any particular strategy,” explains Wunderlich.

“But we do hope that it will provide insight into the potential for jail-based education to reduce recidivism, while allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions about some of the larger issues like mass incarceration, the ‘School to Jail’ pipeline, and the legacy of the ‘War on Drugs’.

With support from the San Francisco Foundation and BAVC (Bay Area Video Coalition), the film was created with the aim of being broadcast nationally on PBS along with acclaimed documentary series P.O.V. 

Five Keys was started over 10 years ago by then San Francisco County sheriff Michael Hennessey. Aware that 70 percent of inmates in U.S. jails never finish high school, he persuaded the San Francisco Unified School District to support a high school inside the jail.

We're not surprised it was an overwhelming success.

“Five Keys Charter School opened with over 200 students,” says O’Connell. “Within three years, it was already apparent that graduates were far less likely to return to jail, and by 2006 the county decided to rebuild its jail with the school at its physical and figurative centre — we think that is an astonishing story.”

The filmmakers still need funding to make their documentary a reality, you can help them out via their trailer on Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/16000769/the-corridor-a-documentary-about-the-power-of-educ

For more information about the project, see website www.thecorridordocumentary.com

State Inmates to Peddle Artistic Works at Second Annual Crafts Fair

By Margaret Wright

A flurry of preparations in a cavernous warehouse on N.M. 14 just south of Santa Fe resemble those for any other fine arts and craftsmanship exposition.

There’s the scent of fresh paint and sawdust from workers repairing sections of walls where goods will be displayed. Another crew unpacks boxes of painstakingly fashioned goods: hand-carved wood figurines, intricately beaded rosaries, woven rugs, paper flowers arranged in paper vases, finely wrought metalwork, an array of freshly varnished furniture.

The difference here? The warehouse is on the property of the state penitentiary, and all the items for sale were created by inmates from 11 prisons.

Some of the artists themselves will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to meet with buyers from the public during the second Penitentiary of New Mexico Inmate Craftsmanship and Trades Fair, hosted by the state Corrections Department.

The first such event in October raised almost $7,000, with about 400 inmates participating, the department staff said. Anna Martinez, acting director of the department’s corrections industries, has been watching goods arrive from all corners of the state, and she says she expects this second expo to be even bigger.

“Part of the picture is that we have an exciting program for inmates, but part of the bigger picture is that they’re giving back to their communities, and they’re taking ownership for their actions,” she said.

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DAs Agree: Pay for Pre-K Education Now, or Prison Later

Image courtesy nydailynews.com

Image courtesy nydailynews.com

By Dan Clark

Spending money on pre-kindergarten programs now will inevitably save the tax payers of Pennsylvania money in the long run when they are not paying as much to lock up criminals, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

To drive that point home on Wednesday, District Attorneys Risa Ferman, Montgomery County, Seth Williams, Philadelphia, Jack Whelan, Delaware County, and Tom Hogan, Chester County, joined each other on stage at the Double Tree Hotel in King of Prussia to introduce the report dubbed “We’re The Guys You Pay Later.”

In short, the report states that much more money is spent on prosecuting defendants and locking them up in the county jails and state prisons than is spent on investing in education for children before Kindergarten. Approximately $2 billion is spent on prisons in Pennsylvania, according to the report.

“Pennsylvania jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way—providing at-risk kids with high-quality early learning programs can reduce the costs and impact of crime in the future,” the report states. Ferman said sending her children to a high-quality pre-school when they were younger sent them on the right path in life and society’s problems cannot be fixed by arresting people and locking them away.

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Critics Say New York Prisons Should Educate, Rehabilitate, Even Inspire

By Brian Mann

Every year tens of thousand of inmates cycle through state and Federal correctional facilities here in the North Country. Almost all of those men will eventually get out of prison.

They'll go home, back to communities and neighborhoods. This morning, we're looking at the debate over whether our prisons are doing the right things to help those inmates avoid committing new crimes and cycling back into prison. There are innovative, creative programs.

But critics say the focus on education and rehabilitation doesn't go far enough.

What if more inmates spent more hours dancing?

For ten years, Susan Slotnick has been teaching modern dance as a volunteer at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in the Hudson Valley.  The project is featured in a new documentary called the Game Changer. 

"They're supposed to be the worst people in the world," she says in the film, speaking of the prisoners that join her ensemble.  "When I see them move, it's like looking at something beautiful."

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Should We Let More Prisoners Take College Classes?

By Andrea Brody

Earlier this month an editorial was published in the New York Times from an unusual source. The writer was John J. Lennon, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility in New York, who’s currently serving a 28 years to life sentence for drug dealing and a murder he committed in 2001.

He is one of 23 out of 2,300 inmates participating in an education program, and he advocates greater access to education in prison through TV. Currently, he says the TV is used as “an incapacitation tool; it's a tool to keep us entertained in cells.” But he suggests that prison TVs should stream online courses instead of movies.

“If inmates had the chance to watch [an online course] then they might say, “Hey, look what's on Channel 3, it's an interesting lecture from a Duke professor on existentialism or philosophy. Believe it or not, people will tune in, and after the lecture they're going to go on their gates, hang on their bars, and they’re going to talk about it.” 

Education, he says, also makes prison a safer place.

“If I'm working on a paper banging away on my typewriter, I have other things on my mind. I'm not shucking and jiving in the prison yard” —‚ and most prison administrators support that view. “They understand it's makes prison a safer place if you have a group of guys with their eyes on the prize who are trying to change themselves.” 

John J. Lennon arrived at Attica in 2004 with a 9th grade education, but in May will graduate with a two-year associate degree. Attica creative writing workshops have changed his life.

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UI's Ginsburg Honored

Rebecca Ginsburg - University of Illinois / Image courtesy www.vebidoo.com

Rebecca Ginsburg - University of Illinois / Image courtesy www.vebidoo.com

By Noelle McGee

She's always had a passion for helping the disenfranchised and those marginalized by society.

That passion took Rebecca Ginsburg abroad for several years where she was involved in human rights and anti-apartheid efforts.

Then — somewhat unexpectedly, she admits — it took her into the California prison system, where she was exposed to another marginalized group. That experience led her down a different career path — bringing higher education to incarcerated students.

Now a University of Illinois faculty member, Ginsburg will be recognized next week by the YWCA for her work as co-founder and director of the Education Justice Project at the UI, which provides higher education to inmates at the Danville Correctional Center and support to them and their families.

According to YWCA officials, the Education Justice Project "has become the largest volunteer-based program in the state, outside of religious programs" and "has been transformative not just for the prisoners involved, but also for the faculty, students and community members who have helped this social justice program thrive."

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UCF Professors Stress Importance of Prison Education

By Alex Wexelman

A college degree, whether stated or unstated, is often a prerequisite for a career. For prisoners, a career is integral to adjusting after getting out and education plays a major role — and UCF professors agree.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times, written by John J. Lennon, a prisoner inmate at the Attica Correctional Facility, paints education as a beacon of hope for prisoners.

Lennon says that inmates watch television all day and companies such as Coursera already record university lectures so it would be easy for massive open online courses to be streamed on prison TVs.

"The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected," Lennon writes.

Education was once an important part of prison life. Lennon reports that in the early 1980s there were 350 college degree programs for prisoners nationwide.

Later in the decade, as crime rose due to the crack epidemic, the public mentality turned harsh on criminals and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, along with other legislation, quashed educational grants for prisoners in the '90s.

Criminal justice professors at UCF agreed that despite public opinion, educating prisoners would be beneficial to the prison system and society as a whole.

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California Prisoners to Get Jobs as Programmers

Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY

Photo Courtesy: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY

By Jessica Guynn

California inmates can earn cash making license plates for state residents. Soon they'll be able to get paid for writing code.

In a first for the country, prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are being considered for jobs as computer programmers. If everything goes as planned, they will work on projects for private businesses, all from inside the prison's walls.

Officials at San Quentin, located just miles but a world away from the heart of San Francisco's technology industry, made the announcement as the first group of inmates graduated from Code.7370, a new course that teaches the basics of coding.

Five private companies have expressed interest in hiring inmates as programmers and are being vetted, said Chuck Pattillo, general manager of the California Prison Industry Authority.

Inmates will be paid a wage comparable to entry-level programmers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pattillo said. Deductions will be taken taken from that pay for room and board at the prison, support for inmates' families, compensation for victims and a mandatory savings account that inmates can tap after they are released, Pattillo said.

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With Prison Tablets, A Choice Between Rehabilitation and Profiteering

Image courtesy apdscorporate.com

Image courtesy apdscorporate.com

By Amadou Diallo

The phone call Grace Bauer received from her son Corey, an inmate in Maryland’s Roxbury state prison, was one of desperation. An incident with other inmates the previous day made him fear that his life was in danger. “I had to call the prison and ask for help,” she recalled. Because her communication with Corey is limited to scheduled phone calls, Bauer could do nothing but wait anxiously to find out if her son was OK. “I went 24 hours without knowing if the prison took steps to keep him safe,” she said.

Even in the age of Facebook and Snapchat, most prisons and jails still rely on the telephone as the primary method of contact between inmates and their families. That’s begun to change, however, with a growing number of facilities adopting more immediate means of communication such as email from handheld devices, providing a way for inmates to stay in touch more regularly with family members. It’s a shift that Bauer, a longtime advocate for juvenile justice reform, welcomes. “If [Corey] had access to email I may have known right away that he had been moved to protective custody rather than having to go to bed worried to death,” she said.

For Chris Grewe, CEO of APDS (America Prison Data Systems), which provides prison-specific tablet computers to correctional facilities, email is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to bringing technology to those who are incarcerated. “We’re looking to provide education, rehabilitation and vocational training,” he said. “We’ve got Khan Academy [lectures] and other kinds of really robust educational materials. We replace recreational reading libraries, which are typically just a handful of donated books, with access to tens of thousands of titles in multiple languages.”

Proponents of email and mobile devices in correctional facilities believe this kind of technology has the potential, if deployed wisely, to drive down recidivism rates. A 2013 study by the RAND Corporation found that inmates who participated in educational programming were 43% less likely to return to prison than those who did not. A 2012 report by the Vera Institute of Justice reinforced previous research by detailing how regular contact with family members can reduce the risk of inmates becoming re-incarcerated once they’re released.

Bauer sees these and other benefits in her work as head of Justice for Families, an advocacy group for families with an incarcerated loved one. While it pains her that families have to pay for email services, she said “those that have access to it have been really happy with it.” Speaking of a mother who’s able to send pictures to her son, Bauer said the woman felt more strongly “like her son was still a part of the family.”

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Behind Bars, But Not The Times

© Provided by IBT US

© Provided by IBT US

By Eric Markowitz

At first glance, APDS looks like your typical tech startup: A bunch of young, bearded guys hanging out and working on MacBooks in a cavernous loft in Manhattan. There's plush vintage furniture and chalkboard walls. There's even an antique canoe dangling inexplicably from the ceiling.

But look a little closer, and you'll see that APDS, which stands for American Prison Data Systems, is anything but your typical tech startup. Led by serial entrepreneur Chris Grewe, APDS is building tablets for prisoners. And business is good.   

Of all the new tech gadgets to (legally) enter into the prison system, from MP3 players to personal TVs, tablets are quickly becoming the most popular. Starting around the beginning of 2014, the three major for-profit prison technology firms--GTL, Securus, and Telmate--began offering inmates the option to purchase tablets loaded with music, movies, and games.

But Grewe and APDS is trying to do something different.

“They’re selling pacification,” Grewe said over lunch at his company’s office recently. “We’re selling education.”

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Senator Seeks Insight on Prison Education Program

Image courtesy Nate Smith | Herald-Press

Image courtesy Nate Smith | Herald-Press

By Jennifer Sheridan

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn visited the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony to see how the prisoners are receiving education and college credits during their sentence.

The education is provided by Trinity Valley Community College educators and prisoners are able to get GEDs, vocational skills and associate degrees to benefit them after they are released from prison.

Windham School District officials said all of the prisoners go through an educational diagnostic when they enter the prison. Most prisoners were said not to have above a fifth grade reading level. The officials wanted to get the literacy rate to a higher level. Windham is the district that teaches all incarcerated students.

Cornyn took a look in different classrooms at Coffield. He was taken to a history class that was being taught by video. Each of the students had textbooks, paper and pens to study and take notes in the class. The instructor, Ella Green a retired teacher from the Palestine Independent School District, said all of her classes were taught over the internet by an instructor of remote learning.

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