Today I’d like to share with you some behind the scenes work that I’m engaging in. It concerns a potential inmate scholarship program that I’m attempting to implement.

The basis of the proposed program revolves around three separate inmate scholarships. Do note that all of this is in the planning stage and is subject to change. A large factor here is funding.

The scholarships are as follows:

Ross Van Ness Inmate Scholarship: a proposed scholarship which would fund paralegal studies at Blackstone Career Institute. This scholarship would cover all costs for 10 incarcerated students to earn a Diploma in Paralegal Studies each year. Do note that this program is rated at 915 clock hours, consists of 14 different texts divided into 31 lessons, and takes an average of 12 to 15 months to complete. It is a very comprehensive program which I enjoyed when I took it.

John Keith Erwin Inmate Scholarship: a proposed scholarship which would fund advanced paralegal studies at Blackstone Career Institute. This scholarship would cover all costs for 10 incarcerated students to earn an Advanced Certificate in any one of eight areas of specialization each year. These 8 areas include: Personal Injury/Torts; Family Law; Wills, Trusts, and Estates; Criminal Law; Civil Litigation; Business & Corporate Law; Real Estate Law; Practical Bankruptcy Law.

Jon Mark Taylor Inmate Scholarship: a proposed scholarship which would fund undergraduate studies. Because of the expenditures associated with college-level studies, this scholarship would be restricted to 1 to 3 active recipients. Each recipient would be able to take up to 10 college courses each year and funding would be available each year until the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree.

Right now I am in discussions with one potential source of funding for these three scholarships. I’m also in the process of speaking with Blackstone Career Institute regarding discounts and such. If everything goes as planned, the Ross Van Ness Inmate Scholarship will be implemented in January of 2012, the John Keith Irwin Inmate Scholarship in January 2013, and the Jon Marc Taylor Inmate Scholarship in January of 2014.

The application process presently under consideration revolves around the nomination of select incarcerated students. A person outside of prison – and not related to the nominee – would migrate to a page at, input the requested information, and wait until selections are made. The information to be provided will include basic information (e.g., contact info, incarceration status, etc.) along with more advanced input (e.g., an essay from the nominee demonstrating aptitude and rationale for their selection, including public works projects or volunteer projects, along with educational history and grades).

A large part of the selection process will revolve around what the incarcerated student has done to educate their fellow prisoners. After all, by educating one prisoner, their life is bettered. But by educating a prisoner who educated others, many are bettered.

As you can see, a lot of thought has gone into this project, which has tremendous potential. I’ll make sure to keep you abreast of any new developments.

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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