By Jon Antonucci
After being incarcerated for over four years now, I have come to the undeniable conclusion that obtaining an education while in prison is hard! Despite the general public's perception that prisoners are being rehabilitated while in the system, in reality, rehabilitation through higher learning is hard to come by. Granted, many prisons require their inmates to pass a "mandatory literacy" examination, and some even require the completion of a GED. But for the most part, the educational train stops there and all inmates must get off. Those who desire to improve themselves through higher learning find that they must fight an uphill battle to receive any sort of accredited education.
For those who are willing to fight that uphill battle, here are a couple of tips to help you be effective in your quest for education.
1) Be aware of non-accredited schools. There are many "career colleges" and "correspondence learning schools" that are more than happy to take your money; and usually, for very little work, will award you an Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, or even Ph.D. (depending upon how much you pay them). But, their diplomas aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Sadly, many "Bible colleges" are a part of this scam. Before investing your time or money into a school, check their accreditation. If they can't produce legitimate accreditations, such as regional accreditation, then you may want to reconsider enrollment.
2) Be careful of course requirements. Those of us who desire to educate ourselves while behind bars tend to get excited the moment we qualify for a scholarship or get accepted into a program, and we don't pay attention to what the course will require. God forbid we put a good amount of time, and possibly money as well, into a course to discover halfway through it that the course requires internet access and we're in a facility where all web access is prohibited! I strongly urge you to protect yourself by researching both the policy of your institution and the expectations of the course prior to enrolling.
Getting an education while in prison may not be easy, but it's well worth it! Whatever events transpired to put us in prison are in the past and done. It is now up to us to use the ‘time’ that we've been given productively. Seeking an education is a very good use of our time for several reasons.
~The knowledge we gain can never be taken from us – and it will always serve us well.
~Keeping busy pursuing an education will help your time pass quickly.
~Parole boards are eager to see that we are using our time wisely by striving toward higher learning.
~Educated people tend to be more successful both while incarcerated and after their release.
~Most importantly, an education will help keep us out of prison. It has been proven that those who achieve some level of education while incarcerated are less likely to reoffend. Working to become productive citizens should be a goal for anyone in prison.
I want to encourage anyone, regardless of age, length of sentence, race, etc., to pursue an education while incarcerated. I believe that striving toward higher learning will prove to be well worth the time, effort, and expense. One cannot be let down by education because we always get more out of it than we put into it!