A rule in prisons, though I know it has become more of an issue in all schools, is “no touching is the best policy”. It is a prison rule all inmates know, and it can lead to a write-up for them. They cannot touch any of the staff.

Occasionally, I have given a professional handshake. When a man is on his way to be released and he is thanking me for helping him pass his GED, or he is thanking me for being his teacher, or coming to say goodbye, I will shake his hand.

No one wants to do anything that could be misconstrued as battery, or some kind of sexual proposal, so we just don’t want to touch.

Drawing, sketching or doodling in class seems fairly benign but is another discipline issue. It may simply seem to be a distraction when students are supposed to be studying. But often, they are working on “gang” symbols, and/or they are designing tattoos. So it needs to be stopped.

“Gangs” is a term we don’t really use anymore. We call them S.T.G.’s. I always thought that sounded like a sexual disease, but it stands for “Security Threat Groups.” Gangs are out. Security Threat Groups are in.

There is much to learn about gangs, but I am not going to address it at length here, because it is a security issue. We don’t publicize a lot of what we know. My advice here is to make sure you keep up on what is going on in your neighborhood gangs, so you recognize the signs of a gang showing up in your classroom or in your school. Gangs exist everywhere, whether anyone admits it or not.

The symbols they draw, the way they wear their clothes, the hand signs they “throw” change all the time. Whatever I might write today about S.T.G.’s will be different by the time this book is published.

You will be trained and updated about gangs in any prison or jail in which you teach. And you will have seminars in your schools to keep you updated on gangs. You should always try not to ignore the fact that Security Threat Groups exist; trust me, they exist.

Janice M. Chamberlin, a licensed prison educator in Indiana, is the author of Locked Up With Success. In her book, Ms. Chamberlin shares stories not only of the challenges she has faced, but also the triumphs she has seen in the prison classroom setting. She has successfully developed a system that can unlock potential even in the highest risk students.

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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