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By Molly Greenberg

A new Virginia Commonwealth University scholarship is giving three people who were formerly incarcerated at the Richmond City Justice Center the opportunity to continue their education.

The three ex-cons who took college classes while in jail have received John Patrick Dooley Open Minds Scholarships, which will compensate for all tuition, fees and books for a three-credit course.

Named in honor of the late John Patrick Dooley, a VCU alum who served in Virginia’s government for over 30 years and was father to John David Dooley, another VCU alum who was a teacher in the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office for 36 years, the scholarship is made possible thanks to the Open Minds program sponsored by the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office and VCU that provides dual enrollment college classes hosted at the Richmond City Justice Center for VCU students and prison inmates alike.

“This is an historic moment,” said David Coogan, co-director of Open Minds and a professor in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences, in a statement. “Our two institutions have never had a scholarship to encourage the best students who happen to be incarcerated go on to become the best students on campus. We hear a lot about the schools-to-prison pipeline. With this new initiative, we hope to create a prison-to-school pipeline.”

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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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