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Title: College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis
Publisher: McFarland and Company
Pages: 300
Genre: Social Sciences/Education

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Provide education to prisoners and they won’t return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained.

Presenting a workable solution to America’s over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

Book Excerpt:

Hundreds of articles and studies about prison education, and many papers presented at academic and professional conferences, almost all come to the same conclusions:

  • Prison education reduces crime,
  • Prison education reduces recidivism, and
  • Prison education will make an enormously positive impact on our national economy.

This is an idea that evokes a lot of controversy, because most people are more concerned with educating their own children than educating prisoners. And the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell because most of the public is unaware of how it can impact our economy and the safety of our communities.

Let’s understand from the start: the concept of educating prisoners is not a “bleeding-heart, humanitarian, feel-good-for-the-imprisoned” kind of cause. On the contrary, it is an issue with huge impact upon the economic stability of our country, the protection of our communities, and a higher quality of life for law-abiding citizens.

Consider this: the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. There is something wrong with this picture. With our prison population now at 2.3 million, we, as a nation, incarcerate far more people per capita than any other country in the world – almost double the next closest nation. Our state and federal prison population has increased almost ten-fold since 1970 and this explosive growth not only creates an untenable financial burden for state and national budgets, but also creates an impossible situation for our judiciary overburdened by high recidivism rates. In some states, like California, prisons are so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state had to reduce their prisoner population by tens of thousands because the state’s system was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity”.

The growth rate in federal prisons is even worse than that of the states. While state prison populations dropped in 2009 and 2010, federal prisons are bursting at the seams, and federal prison budgets are increasing by 10% a year to accommodate the ever-growing prison population. Lawmakers are calling for the creation of a second federal “supermax” similar to “the notorious Florence ADX in Colorado – a place where solitary confinement has been raised to a torturous art, and prisoners seldom, if ever, see another human being. Conditions at this ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’ are so harsh that the European Court of Human Rights initially refused to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States lest they end up in ADX”.

Hundreds of studies and all the research in the field of criminology affirm that prison education is the least expensive and most effective solution to overcrowding and strain on the budget caused by recidivism. Nevertheless, despite overwhelming evidence, policy makers and the general public still do not support funding post-secondary higher education in prisons. Year after year, even the most basic correctional educational programs are further reduced. Computers are not allowed. The result? Increased prisoner unrest and violence, and even more money spent for additional security.

Today, higher education for prisoners is almost non-existent. And, as we shall see, our failure to invest in opportunities for correctional college education weakens the very fabric of our society. With proper implementation, the impact of prison education can be enormous – not just on prisoners, but on our entire society and our nation’s prosperity. Let us hope that greater understanding will result in wise legislative action for our common good.

“In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures…, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. But more than half these prisoners are in on drug charges and another 10% on immigration violations, so that more than 72% of our incarcerated population are offenders with no history of violence. With re-arrest rates averaging around 67% to 80%, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working”.

In the opinion of Chief Justice William Ray Price of the Supreme Court of Missouri, “We may have been tough on crime, but we have not been smart on crime.” He noted further, “For years we have waged a ‘war on drugs,’ enacted ‘three strikes and you’re out’ sentencing laws, and thrown away the key to be tough on crime. What we did not do was check to see how much it costs, or whether we were winning or losing. In fact, it has cost us billions of dollars and we have just as much crime now as we did when we started.”

Despite all the studies that confirm society and the nation as a whole will reap significant benefits, the idea of providing post-secondary education in prisons is a hard sell. The public appears to have a visceral, but understandable, reaction against the idea of higher education for prisoners. Why, people ask, should Americans pay to provide a college education for prisoners when so many law-abiding, tax-paying citizens struggle to send themselves or their children to school? It doesn’t seem fair. Honest people have to pay to receive an education; why should prisoners get it for free?

And besides, say some of the opponents to correctional education, if we provide a learning environment for prisoners, perhaps prison will seem less terrible and serve as a less effective deterrent to crime. However, the deterrent argument fails, because people do not decide whether or not to commit a crime based on the program opportunities available if they are caught and sent to prison.

Others believe that people who commit a crime have chosen to limit their opportunities and freedoms, including access to valuable privileges like education. Therefore, handing it free to people who break the law feels wrong, feels like a slap in the face of justice.

These are legitimate concerns, but there are strong, legitimate solutions.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that I am a prisoner myself, I do not dispute the concept of getting tough on crime. I do not advocate creating a cushy environment for prisoners. And I certainly do not propose taking privileges from deserving, hard-working people to pamper prisoners. That is not what educating prisoners is about.

So why, then, should we care about educating prisoners, educating people who didn’t care about the victims they hurt, the communities they impoverished, and the society they endangered?

We care, very simply, because they get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they’re locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals. But if we educate these people, give them some positive reinforcement, and introduce the idea that they’ll have something to offer society when they return to their communities, that’s what we’ll get when they are free: people who have something to offer society.”

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Christopher ZoukisChristopher 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.

His latest book is The Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLaw.com’s Federal Bureau of Prison Facility Directory.

Directory of Federal PrisonsQ) Would you call yourself a born writer?

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.

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Directory of Federal PrisonsTitle: Directory of Federal Prisons
Author: Christopher Zoukis & Dr. Randall Radic
Publisher: Middle Street Publishing
Pages: 145
Language: English
Genre: Reference/Law
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

The DIRECTORY OF FEDERAL PRISONS: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory by Christopher Zoukis and Dr. Randall Radic is a comprehensive, yet succinct, guide to the contact information and basic character profile information of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, plus all private prisons under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house federal inmates.

It is an essential guide for everyone who knows anyone incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and sets the standard for basic character profiles and contact information for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This electronic guidebook enables attorneys, family members and friends of federal prisoners, journalists, government officials, prison volunteers, and members of the general public to quickly locate the contact information and inmate correspondence address of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every private prison which houses federal inmates.

About the Authors:

Christopher ZoukisChristopher 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.

Randall Radic is the Senior Editor and Chief Operating Officer of Middle Street Publishing (MSP), where he superintends PrisonLawBlog.com and PrisonEducation.com, and manages all of MSP’s print and online endeavors.

After graduating from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in the classics, Dr. Radic matriculated at Agape Seminary, where he received the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology, and then Trinity Seminary where he received the degree of Doctor of Theology.

Dr. Randall RadicDr. Radic is the author of several non-fiction books, including Blood In, Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood (Headpress, 2011), The Sound of Meat (Ephemera Bound Publishing, 2008), A Priest in Hell: True Crimes of America’s Clergy (ECW Press, 2009), and Terminal Disaster: Inside the Money Machine (Sunbury Press, 2012).

Dr. Radic has appeared on National Public Radio and A&E Television discussing prison education and America’s prison gangs.

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