By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Scott Holman discovered he had a passion he didn’t know he had when he accepted the offer of teaching the extended studies program with Adam’s State University. Holman accepted a rare opportunity to help prisoners earn college degrees through a unique correspondence program. ASU is located in Alamosa, Colorado where Holman graduated with a BA in English in 1996.

It is unusual to qualify for teaching upper division literature courses without a PHD. Holman came into program with a MA in Literature he earned at Colorado State University. Even without a PHD Holman’s resume was not too shabby, with 20th Century American Fiction, Ethic Minority Literature, American Literature One and Two, and Intro to Literature already under his belt. Candidates with PHDs didn’t have time, so Holman jumped at the opportunity. He doesn’t regret a minute of his experience teaching literature for the extended studies program because it has opened many doors not only for his resume, but for his incarcerated students as well.

Holman is currently teaching English 365-Ethnic and Minority Literature through the extended studies program. He believes teaching to prisoners is an honor because it is a privilege for students to participate. Through the extended studies program inmates can go as far as earning a BA, which significantly increases their chances of getting a job when they are released.

Holman regards his incarcerated students as being exceptional because they have the time to focus their energy on the works of literature. Analyses of literalities are extremely defined and time in prison gives them time to look at them in depth.  

Incarcerated students have to work much harder at accomplishing their academic goals than outside students because of their lack of access to technology. The learning style for extended studies is correspondence through the mail; therefore students need to be exceptionally patient and motivated to earn a degree. 

The course outline is to read three novels, answer questions and write a literary analysis on one section of a novel. Assignments are mailed like enveloped letters — all through mail, which is time consuming. They are typed-out, printed, sent, received back, graded, and then sent back out. Students are required to wait for feedback before proceeding to the next assignment.

Holman has compassion for his students because he knows how frustrating it must be to correspond the old-fashioned way. He thinks about how his students must get bored sitting and waiting for their papers to return. Sceptics say, “Well, they’re not going anywhere.” but Holman knows it means so much more to them— it is their lives. We need to respect the way they spend their time —- earning a degree is their job.

Holman looks back at times when he waited anxiously for feed-back from his students. He reminisces about how much he enjoyed reading the delightful poems his students sent him.

Holman has worked with both male and female incarcerated students. The procedure for everyone is they sign-up for class and have a year to complete the course. He recalls that one-third of outside population does not complete the course, but he can’t remember a prisoner not completing the curriculum — all the prisoner/students complete the course because they are inspired to improve their lives. A completed degree looks very encouraging to a parole officer, not to mention a future employer.

Holman claims the best readers are found in the prison population because reading is an escape from the reality of day to day prison life. Sitting in front of the TV all day is a waste of time for prisoners who desire to make the most of their stretch while incarcerated. One student stands out in Holman’s mind — a female student. She was a very good student that Holman was curious about, so he googled her name and found out she was in for murder and may never get out.  Earning degrees while behind bars is even beneficial to lifers because they can make their life useful by assisting other students.

Adams State’s perspective is: might as well do something constructive.

The graduation ceremony from ASU Extended Studies takes place in Canyon City, Colorado. The proud students approach the podium dressed in cap and gown and are handed their degrees — just like any other graduation ceremony.

The extended studies program has endorsed Holman as eligible for teaching at any university.  

Holman taught at Adams State for four years, then proceeded to Idaho State University. He currently is finishing his PHD dissertation. Holman has an EBD in English and is currently employed as a writing consultant at University of Boulder.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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