Prison Scholar Fund

Having spent 16 years behind bars, Dirk Van Velzen is used to the word “no,” however, he may have heard that word more than the average prisoner. Van Velzen went to prison in 1999 on commercial burglary charges – and he got bored. According to his story on Prison Scholar Fund, “he quickly realized that…

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By Christopher Zoukis There’s been much talk about prison reform in this country, but to date not a lot has changed. While prisoner education programs and other reforms are slowly making ground, the U.S. still has the world’s highest prison population, with nearly a half million more in the prison system than China, which ranks…

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Russell Hawthorne

By Christopher Zoukis Russell Hawthorne, or Rusty to his inner circle, had been released from Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia — but he returned— gladly. He didn’t go back to be behind bars. He went back to join his graduating class and receive his welding certificate. The prison education program he went through while…

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In Florida, one in four released prisoners is re-incarcerated—and it’s a lack of education that’s largely to blame. With the average Florida inmate having just a sixth-grade education, the chances of finding steady work at a living wage are slim. Add a criminal record that turns off most viable employers, and many former inmates feel…

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By Christopher Zoukis Prison might be the last place you would expect to see a great performance of Shakespeare. But for more than a decade, Marin Shakespeare Company in California has taught Shakespeare in several prisons, and to rave reviews. In 1989, the company launched to reinvigorate Shakespeare in Northern California, but has expanded its…

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By Christopher Zoukis In the ongoing discussion of prison reform, mass incarceration and reducing recidivism, vocational programs are often overlooked in favor of formal educational courses and other activities and programming. Maybe it is assumed that most incarcerated individuals have access to, and participate in, vocational training and prison jobs. At least that’s what popular…

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By Christopher Zoukis The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spent 2016 making laudable strides toward helping improve the state of mass incarceration in this country. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel made a statement in December outlining improvements the Department of Corrections (DOC) has made in public, prisoner, and staff safety, improving transparency and fiscal responsibility, providing more…

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By Christopher Zoukis There are myriad issues with the current U.S. system of mass incarceration where more people are imprisoned than any other country in the world, and often in a hugely skewed manner — one which varies widely across states. It’s vital to reduce mass incarceration for the improvement of society, and for the…

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By Christopher Zoukis The Prison Entrepreneurship Project has helped transform more than 1,300 convicted felons into business graduates that have transitioned successfully back into society. The project focuses on male prisoners, and is a comprehensive, holistic program aimed at reducing recidivism, giving second chances to ex-offenders, and helping to ensure successful reintegration into their communities.…

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By Christopher Zoukis The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that within five years of release, 76 percent of prisoners released in the U.S. reoffend. Breaking this cycle requires radical reforms in rehabilitation methods, and some surprising approaches are showing promising results —  downward dog and mantra chanting. Educational and vocational programs already in place for…

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