Educational Series #1
Educational opportunities are very important for all people. But they are especially important for America’s most disenfranchised demographic: prisoners. This is because without an education, prisoners are bound to repeat the same actions that brought them to prison in the first place. The proper terminology for this is recidivate; to be released from prison and return because of either committing a new crime or violating the conditions of their release. Long story short, to the prisoner, an education might very well be their only hope of getting out of prison and staying out.
The educational climate at any particular prison will depend upon the prison itself. I’ve been in prisons that have only offered GED courses and brick masonry classes. I’ve also been in prisons that offer much, much more. Since the majority of my educational experience has been at FCI-Petersburg, I will use FCI-Petersburg as my example of what a prison can offer. After all, I’ve taken college courses, career courses, high school courses, and more since arriving here. I also currently teach an adult continuing education course: Writing and Publishing.
According to the FCI-Petersburg Inmate Admission and Orientation Handbook, “The Education Department is responsible for providing literacy and English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) programs as required by law and other education and related programs that meet the needs and interests of the inmate population, provide options for the positive use of inmate time, and enhance successful reintegration into the community.”
The handbook further notes, “Inmate educational programs include: literacy, English-as-a-Second Language, vocational training and apprenticeship, parenting, and adult continuing education classes (ACE). These programs provide inmates with an opportunity to earn a high school equivalency credential, learn functional skills, obtain marketable job skills, and acquire self-improvement skills.”
While I’ll go into each of these areas, plus a few others, in more detail in future posts, the truth of the matter is that while in the Federal Bureau of Prisons all prisoners are afforded the opportunity to obtain a basic adult education. This is facilitated through literacy or more commonly termed “GED” classes. To clarify, the GED is the official high school diploma equivalent. It is accepted by colleges and employers, but those who have taken the five-subject specific examinations that comprise the GED – myself included – have noted that it takes much less to pass the GED than most high school courses. This actionable information shows that the intellectual value of a GED is inherently less than a high school diploma. Plus, depending on the demographic of the prisoner’s home community, a GED can be looked down upon if most people graduate from high school. It’s a stigma that isn’t all that unfounded. Regardless, a GED is certainly better than nothing.
Since the GED is the primary educational endeavor undertaken by the majority of prisoners, I’ll leave off any further discussion at this point. In the next few posts I’ll go into more depth on the GED courses and the other educational opportunities available here at FCI-Petersburg.
On a final note, my area of specialization is prison education. Hence the two books that I wrote: Education Behind Bars and College For Convicts (I am currently seeking a publisher for both). If you have a loved one who is in prison and seeking an education, please email me at Chriszoukis@gmail.com. I would gladly offer you a free educational consultation. You can also sign your loved one up for the Education Behind Bars Newsletter by emailing me their name, prisoner number, and mailing address. Don’t forget to read it yourself!