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Entries in College (17)

Thursday
Oct092014

Applying to College With a Criminal Record

By Levi LaChapelle / Truthout Op-Ed  Image courtesy tjjournal.com

Colleges are staging areas for economic success and personal prosperity. As sociologist Andrew Cherlin recently observed to The New York Times, "A bachelor's degree is the closest thing to a class boundary that exists today." Indeed, a report from the Pew Research Center shows that for the last two decades, only college graduates have seen their incomes rise.

As students start fall classes across the country, it is worth considering how many promising individuals have been discouraged or disadvantaged in the college admissions process because of their criminal record. Sixty-five million Americans now have a misdemeanor or felony conviction; the number of individuals with a criminal record who have considered applying to college is probably no paltry sum.

The steep rise in convictions in recent decades means that exclusionary college admission practices may needlessly intensify socioeconomic inequality in America. Furthermore, because the criminal justice system is rife with racial bias, criminal history screenings are likely to exacerbate the racial gap in higher education. Acute racial disparities in arrest and conviction rates - disproportionately ensnaring young black and brown men - ensure that the use of criminal justice information in college admissions is not a race-neutral practice.

College criminal history screenings often evoke concerns about campus safety. But American college campuses have long maintained low violent-crime rates, while requiring information about past convictions has become common only recently. One study shows that approximately 67 percent of all colleges and universities now require an applicant's criminal history. Nevertheless, empirical evidence shows that schools that require criminal histories are no safer than those that do not.

On the other hand, hindering individuals with criminal records from going to college may negatively affect public safety. Criminological research clearly shows that educational programs reduce the likelihood that people with convictions will commit future crimes. Furthermore, with a national average cost of incarceration at more than $25,000 a year per inmate, taxpayers stand to save a great deal by helping people stay out of trouble and out of jail.

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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
Sep022014

5 Steps to Enrolling in College from Prison

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy prisoneducation.com

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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Thursday
Jan302014

The Center for Prison Outreach and Education

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy cpoe.pages.tcnj.edu

The Center for Prison Outreach and Education is an extension of the College of New Jersey.  The program is designed for local prison populations.  Faculty members from the college teach classes to inmates in order improve their lives and reduce the possibility of recidivism.  As the program's website asserts, "Research indicates that inmates who participate in educational programs behind bars are less likely to recidivate, and more likely to become productive members of society upon their release. It is the Center's goal to make this transformation a possibility through the offering of credit-bearing courses as well as other forms of academic tutoring and enrichment to those living behind bars.”

To that end, the Center for Prison Outreach and Education has worked to secure funding to continue its important work which is ultimately to facilitate higher education in prisons.

College for Prison Inmates

The program for inmates is delivered by professional instructors who deliver courses that vary widely.  Inmates take courses alongside other College of New Jersey students who enroll in the prison classes.  This sets the program apart from other prison-based programs; the added dimension of mixing 'inside' and 'outside' students has had a positive impact on both sets of students.  Inmates receive college credit for the classes they pass.  All classes are academically standard; that is, all students are held to the same standards and requirements of the coursework. Now that the program's funding allows, inmates have the opportunity to work toward their Associate Degree in Business Management.

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Monday
Dec302013

Prison Education Program Proposed in N. H.

CONCORD (AP) — Young adult prisoners in New Hampshire would get a chance to shave 13 months off their sentences under a bill heading back to the state Legislature.  Image courtesy www.wesleyan.edu

Lawmakers narrowly defeated a bill two years ago that would allow inmates between 17 and 25 to earn time off their sentences for completing education and rehabilitative programs. The new version of the bill, which is up for a House vote Jan. 8, mandates that inmates fully serve their minimum sentences before becoming eligible for parole.

Under the bill, inmates would get 90 days off their sentences for completing GED programs, 120 days for a high school diploma and 180 days for an associate or bachelor's degree. They also could earn reductions for completing vocational, mental health or family support programming.

Proponents say the bill would encourage rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. They argue that prisoners who have an incentive to better themselves are less of a burden on society.

"Some people will say, 'I don't give a damn,'" said state Rep. Gene Charron, R-Chester, a sponsor of the bill and a former jail superintendent. "But you know what? Most of the people in the state prison are coming home. So how do you want them to come home? With an education? With a trade?"

But Donna Sytek, chairwoman of the state parole board, told the Concord Monitor the bill has several flaws. Inmates currently incarcerated would be eligible for reduced time if the sentencing court approves, but other interested parties, including the victim and the public, aren't in the loop, she said. And she said the bill doesn't account for the fact that many rehabilitative programs have been gutted from the prison system.

"The bill promises more than it can deliver," she said.

(First published by Seacoastonline and used here by permission)

Friday
Nov222013

Distance Learning: Middle Tennessee State University

Correspondence

Correspondence courses involve individual, independent instruction of a student by an instructor on a one-to-one basis. Typically, this will entail study at home, as well as the exchange of materials and evaluations through a mail/courier sImage courtesy www.nashvillescene.comervice. Interaction and feedback between correspondence course faculty and students take the forms of written assignments, testing, evaluations, guidance, and assistance via such media as D2L, print/written word, telephone, fax, e-mail, and other electronic technologies. Computer access and/or a proctored exam will be required as determined by your correspondence instructor. A student must be self-motivated and self-disciplined to successfully complete a correspondence course.

Correspondence courses follow the university Academic Calendar and Tuition and Fees Schedule. University admissions procedures must be followed before registering for these and other distance learning courses. An Admissions application may be completed online and, upon admittance to the university, students may register for courses online via Pipeline.

Course Materials

The links below are to the materials for your course. (If you choose to use this electronic version you do not need to purchase the printed version of the packet but you still need to purchase your textbooks*.) You may choose to print this material from home or a University computer lab or simply save the file on your computer desktop and access it as needed (no printing).

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Monday
Nov182013

Distance Learning: University of North Carolina

Photo courtesy natcom.orgThrough Self-paced Courses, part-time students can earn college credit by taking correspondence or online courses at their own pace. All courses are taught from a distance—no class attendance is required. The courses can be started at any time and are not tied to a semester schedule. Students have nine months to complete the course work.

The institutions offering courses are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. All courses have been approved by the department offering the course. Courses originate and credit is granted from eight institutions in the University of North Carolina system:

  • Appalachian State University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Western Carolina University

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