Prison Legal News (PLN) recently published Prison Education Guide, written by Christopher Zoukis, the author of College For Convicts and the founder of www.prisoneducation.com and www.prisonlawblog.com. An ardent advocate for educating prisoners, Mr. Zoukis knows whereof he speaks because he currently resides in a federal prison in Virginia. Put another way, Prison Education Guide was written by a prisoner for prisoners.
Prison education reduces recidivism
On the first page of the first chapter, Mr. Zoukis gets right to the point, telling his fellow prisoners, “Education is your ticket to a second chance in life, your best hope for never seeing prison walls again. Nothing else has proven to be as effective.” He backs his words up by citing the deplorable recidivism rates in the United States – sixty to seventy percent of all prisoners end up back in prison within two to three years. However, education drastically reduces the odds of returning to prison. The recidivism rate for prisoners with a master’s degree is virtually zero.
Correspondence courses for prisoners are the ticket to success
After making it clear that education is the key, Mr. Zoukis does precisely what the title of his book states: he guides his readers through the maze of college correspondence courses available to prisoners, whether GED courses, technical/vocational schools, community colleges or four-year colleges and universities. Based on massive amounts of research and his own experiences, Mr. Zoukis provides insight on selecting an appropriate school, making application, testing, learning materials and cost. He even walks prisoners through the ins and outs of accreditation, advising prisoners to “avoid wasting your time and money at a school that does not have authentic accreditation.”
Since the primary obstacle confronting most prisoners is how to pay for correspondence courses, Mr. Zoukis sets forth practical suggestions on solving the problem, including scholarships – which are few and far between – equivalency exams, along with financial assistance from friends and family. And he reminds prisoners that once released, they are eligible for FAFSA.
Follow the rules
In the fifth chapter, Mr. Zoukis offers sage counsel to any prisoner contemplating the pursuit of education: “Make sure you know, and know well, the educational policies of your prison.” Prisoners must obtain authorization from the prison to participate in correspondence courses and receive course materials. To this end, Mr. Zoukis suggests that prisoners “keep your education coordinator and supervisor in the loop from the very beginning.” Failure to do so will result in failure.
All the information in one book
After the first five chapters, which serve as pertinent introductory material, the preponderant portion of the book includes in-depth school listings. Each school listing includes contact information, accreditation, tuition, payment plan, transfer, time limit, degrees offered, course categories, media component, catalog information, application fee and a comment section, in which Mr. Zoukis, when applicable, provides “an honest evaluation” of the school.
School listings are divided into eight categories: Graduate Study, Undergraduate Studies, College-level Religious Studies, Career and Vocational Studies, High School Studies, Fee-based Bible Studies, Free Bible Studies and Personal Enrichment Studies. For example, the Graduate Study category includes ten schools that offer master and doctorate programs for prisoners. Mr. Zoukis points out that only five of the ten schools are accredited. And of those five, only two offer master programs – Adams State University and California Miramar University.
The Bible of prison education
Prison Education Guide is a treasure trove of data for any prisoner who wants to obtain an education, land a job upon release, support his family and become a contributing member of society. It’s comprehensive and the information is current.