Christopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles. His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.
Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education. Recently, he was the focus of an article at Salon.com concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.
When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at PrisonLawBlog.com, PrisonEducation.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com.
A) I would say so. From a young age I have enjoyed writing, but it has been in my adulthood — particularly the past few years — that I have written professionally. But do keep in mind, just like anything else, the only way to become good at something is to practice. For a writer, that means to read and write regularly.
Q) What was your inspiration for the Directory of Federal Prisons?
A) The Directory of Federal Prisons is one of those projects that just needed to be done, and now. I regularly contribute to PrisonLawBlog.com and PrisonEducation.com. Not a week goes by when we don’t receive an email from a friend or family member of a federal prisoner trying to reestablish contact, but they don’t know how. There are only so many emails you can take from mothers and children of federal prisoners desiring to write to their loved ones before you have to stop what you’re doing and fix whatever the problem is. In this case, the problem is that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has very restrictive correspondence policies and very specific mailing addresses for its prisoners. In an effort to help connect families, we devoted our time, resources, and effort to producing the Directory of Federal Prisons in the hopes that it will help families stay together, regardless of if a term of incarceration is involved.
Q) What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
A) While the Directory of Federal Prisons focuses on factual data concerning the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I often contribute to national prison law outlets such as Prison Legal News and also to a number of online, general readership publications. In this writing, I focus on prison education, prisoners’ rights, and social justice topics. Lately, I have been writing a lot about solitary confinement, prison disciplinary hearings, case law updates, and many other prison-related topics.
Q) How long did it take you to complete the Directory of Federal Prisons?
A) From start to finish, it took around 6 months to research, write, and prepare the Directory of Federal Prisons for publication. As a directory, the most challenging part was locating the research required to fulfill the project, then figuring out how to incorporate it. In the end, I think the Directory of Federal Prison came out better than we could have hoped. It is now helping to keep families together.
Q) Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
A) I’d say that I’m very disciplined, in an unconventional way. I write every day. I do so for several hours each day. But I don’t always stick to specific projects as I might plan. Instead, I work on what is currently inspiring me. This way my writing is always the best that it can be and as engaging as possible. I try to stay energized by the content.
Q) What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
A) Obtaining the research was quite a challenge. While yes, there are many websites that purport to provide basic character profiles and contact information for federal prisons, not many have the correct information. Most have badly outdated information, but it is presented as if it is current. While the Federal Bureau of Prisons does have a website, it is cumbersome to navigate and even they don’t make all of the information contained in the Directory of Federal Prisons readily available. So, researching this project was quite a challenge.
Q) What do you love most about being an author?
A) Being able to make a difference in the world around me. I spend every day in the social justice arena. I advocate for prison education and prisoners’ rights through my writing constantly. My books allow me to reach a wider market, and possibly impact public collective belief and even public policy. It’s this potential for change that drives me forward. With every word I have the power to make millions of lives better, and I fully intend to do so.
Q) Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self-publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
A) The Directory of Federal Prisons was published by Middle Street Publishing. Middle Street Publishing is a small press which focuses on social justice issues. They primarily publish content online, but are now expanding into print, too. Since Middle Street Publishing is such a small, close-knit bunch, Dr. Randall Radic and myself were very involved in the publishing process. We assisted with editorial and production decisions, along with spearheading the promotion and marketing of the Directory of Federal Prisons. While it has been exhausting, we believe that our involvement has made a world of difference. To date, the directory has been a resounding success.
Q) Where can we find you on the web?
A) I can be found blogging regularly at PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com. I also regularly contribute to Blog Critics, AND Magazine, and Prison Legal News.