Today I thought that I’d share with you some of the books I’ve read recently and some that I’ve purchased, but have not managed to read yet. I was thinking that this could be a fun way to share several good books and to humanize the prisoner educator (prisoner who educates). After all, much of the time, the prisoner is thought of as a liar or a deceiver. While I don’t contest this for the general population, I do contest it for those of us who work hard to educate our fellow prisoners, along with educating ourselves. Hopefully my reading list will open eyes, hearts, and minds to the cause of prisoners who educate prisoners.

Without further ado, here is what’s currently on my bookshelf, and my thoughts on them:

America Is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s

By Lee Bernstein

I’m in the process of reading this stupendous title. I suppose that the idea of prisoners being able to affect change outside of the prison walls really interests me. While some of it is rather political, it is a superb read from the glory days of prisoners actually doing something to better themselves and the world around them. It is a very inspiring read and has even motivated me to do some research upon American prisons of the past. This book very well might have inspired me to write a book about the history of prison education.

The New American Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form

I suppose that every student and writer needs a decent thesaurus.

The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus

When I need to raise the reading level of an article or essay, I find this thesaurus to be of utmost importance.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I have to say, even though I am a scholar and a writer, I’m horrible at spelling. My dictionary receives a lot of usage. While I have a larger version of this dictionary, the smaller one fits well in my gray mesh bag and makes the journey to the Education Department several times a week with me.

Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus From the Cross

By Richard John Neuhaus

I haven’t managed to read this one yet, but my good friend Randall Radic – the author of a number of great titles – sett it to me. So, I’m determined to read it as soon as I clear off my plate.

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America

By Michael G. Santos

This is another that I haven’t got to yet. I hear that it’s a great book from several friends in the Education Department. I will get to this one as soon as I have time.

The New Writing With A Purpose (14th Edition)

By Joseph F. Trimmer

This is one of my college English textbooks. I enjoy this textbook and even use it in Week Two of my “Writing and Publishing” class. I’m actually considering utilizing it to craft a new course. If you need a text which shows how to write essays – both academic and practical – this is the book for you.

The Riverside Reader (8th Edition)

Edited By Joseph Trimmer and Maxine Hairston

This text is the companion reader to my college English course. So far, it is a decent read. I like the reflection questions in it because they force me to examine the literature intensively. I also like the blend of stories from vastly different backgrounds. This ensures that my education and reading are diverse in content and structure.

Providing College to Prison Inmates

By Jeanne Bayer Contardo

I’ve only glanced through this title. After all, I received it three days ago. It looks like a tremendous text. Mrs. Contardo did a very good job on the research as she always does! She did a study not too long ago with W. Erisman. It was titled “Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy.” This is probably the best study on prison education that I’ve ever come across. I highly recommend that you read whatever Mrs. Contardo has to say. To say “I’m impressed” would not even cover her terrific work, my opinion of it, or my opinion of her!

Schooling in a “Total Institution”: Critical Perspectives on Prison Education

Edited By Howard J. Davidson

I have not yet read this title, but look forward to doing so in the near future. I’ll let you know what I think when I do.

New International Version Bible

I like the NIV a lot because it offers a trusted translation of the Bible. It assists me when I need to see something worded in a more modern way than the KJV can provide.

King James Version Bible

The KJV is my starting point when I’m reading or studying the Bible. I trust it the most and have come to place my salvation on its very words, His words.

Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the United States and Canada

By Jon Marc Taylor, Ph.D.

The PGH is a terrific title. This is what really started me on my quest to be a student and a teacher. Dr. Taylor has inspired me so much through his tremendous work. I can’t thank him enough. While this title isn’t of much use to those outside of prison, it is to those in prison. I highly recommend that any who have a loved one in prison order this book. Although, once my book, “Education Behind Bars” comes out, I think that Dr. Taylor’s PGH will become outdated. This is not to say that the book is old or bad, but that mine is much more up-to-date and expansive; It’s of use to prisoners and those outside of prison, too.

The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling

By John Taylor Gatto

I have not yet read this title since I received it in the mail just the other day, but do look forward to it. These days I’m entertaining the idea of writing a history of correctional education. I’m hoping that this title will show me several ways to present my research, and entertain and inform me in the process.

The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate

By Clara Shih

This is another great book. It has a strong marketing and promotions slant. It also has introduced me to concepts such as ROI (Return on Investment) and how to gauge my online efforts. I highly recommend this book to anyone desiring to expand their online presence.

College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students

By Bruce Michaels

This title is a lot like Dr. Taylor’s PGH. However, it is not as exhaustive (101 pages, I believe) and really not as good. Plus, it was self-published and has a very narrow appeal: prisoners who are attempting to convince their Supervisor of Education to allow prison education programs. If I were you, I’d celebrate the fact that Mr. Michaels put the time in to craft such a document, but I would purchase Dr. Taylor’s PGH. Sorry, my personal opinion.

Higher Education In Prison: A Contradiction In Terms?

By Miriam Williford

This title I received just today in the mail. It was published in 1994, but looks to be well researched. I can’t wait to read it and utilize it for my own research and professional development.

And that’s it. This concludes the list of books on my shelf, in my locker, and in my library bag (the gray mesh bag I carry with me to the library when I go). I hope this list of titles piques your interest and motivates you to purchase one or two of the books. After all, there are several terrific prison education titles in the mix, several of which contain impeccable research.

I’ll let you know as I come across other decent prison education titles.

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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