By Jon Antonucci
After being incarcerated for over four years now, I have arrived at the undeniable conclusion that obtaining an education while in prison is nothing short of difficult. Despite the perception of the public that inmates are being rehabilitated while in the system, the reality of the situation is that opportunities for rehabilitation - specifically in regards to higher learning are often quite difficult to come by. Those who do wish to improve themselves may find themselves fighting an uphill battle to gain any sort of accredited education.
Granted there are plenty of "career colleges" who will gladly receive compensation for their unaccredited courses. And while their programs may be reasonably affordable, and boast the successes of a "certification" or even a degree, most of the diplomas and certificates that one will earn are not worth the paper they are printed on. Sadly, many so-called "Bible Colleges" are a part of this scam. Those who are looking to increase their knowledge should beware those educators who will delightedly accept one's money, but who cannot verify their accreditation. (Also be careful to double check accreditors. as several accreditation groups have recently surfaced to "accredit" schools who will pay them enough money, but who are not able to be accredited through legitimate means.)
Yet another aspect of prison education to watch out for is facility restrictions. Many students have sent their hard-earned money to educators who will send in the course, only to discover that their institution does not allow inmates to have the materials that were sent in. And while many decent academic sources will grant partial refunds for courses which cannot be taken, almost never can one obtain an entire refund of their payment. In fact, many times, after fighting with the mail room for weeks to get their course, only to be disallowed their materials, productive inmates find out that it is too late to obtain any sort of refund at all. It is strongly encouraged that prior to enrolling in a program and certainly before making any payments, those desiring higher education double check the policies and restrictions of the institution where they are housed.
Obtaining an education while in prison may not be easy but it is worth the effort. Whatever may have happened to send an individual to prison occurred in the past. It is imperative for inmates to use the time that they have been given productively. Getting an education is an excellent use of one's time, and it is an asset that can never be taken from those who have it.
Educational pursuits help to pass the time. Parole Boards always like to see that inmates have pursued higher learning, and education has been proven lime and time again to be the single greatest contributing factor to a successful reintegration into society when release comes around. Therefore, not only does it help one do their time, it can help their time come to an end. And it can help them never have to do time again!
If you are one who has any amount of time at all to serve in jail or prison, please be encouraged to vigorously pursue higher education during the whole of your prison term: it will be well worth the time, effort, and expense. A great place to begin this quest is by contacting your local community college. In many cases, community colleges have special contracts drawn up with DOC to facilitate educational opportunities for inmates. And yes Community Colleges are accredited. Of course, EBBN will also assist in the location of educational opportunities.
Editor's Note: Mr. Antonucci submitted two separate versions of his article to PrisonEducation.com, which decided to print both versions. Taking advantage of editorial license, the article was assigned two distinct titles.