The last question posed by my friends about life on the inside regarded educational opportunities. Again, as with my other entries in this series I can only relay what is true of this institution.
The only real educational opportunity is to support those pursuing their GED. There is a set of classes, taught by other inmates, established for those who never graduated high school. While there are teachers on staff, all of the classes are taught by inmates. I don’t know how these particular inmates are chosen to be the actual teachers, but they do a fairly effective job. I’ve been told that it’s Federal law that those who do not have their high school diploma or their GED certificate must enroll in the GED program. However, there are many people without their diploma/certificate that are not. How or why this is true I do not know.
The next level of ‘education’ are the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) classes. Again, these are classes taught by inmates and cover a wide variety of topics. The topics are determined by what the inmate wants to teach. Some examples of course topics include: Paranormal Activities; Real Estate; Stock Market; and Commercial Driver’s License. Some, like Paranormal Activities have no real educational benefits for life after prison. Also, the ACE classes go don’t earn the students any college credits so taking the ACE classes is really a measure of an inmate’s desire to do something with their time and drive to do something that may glean some level of information. I took the Small Business course and was pleased with the class. The inmate teaching it was interesting to listen to and obviously knew what he was teaching. I’ve also taken the stock market class and was very disappointed. While the teacher knew the info, he did not teach a broad overview of the market, instead he focused on one small aspect of trading and we spent the entire sixteen sessions on that one thing. In my opinion, it was a failure.
For those like me, with a college degree there is no real further educational opportunity offered by the institutional. Also, they are not helpful if an inmate wants to pursue correspondence courses. It is entirely up to the inmate to find any such coursework. They do not allow inmates to take these outside courses if the course requires access to the internet, video tapes or CDs. All work must be exclusively pen and paper. This severely limits what’s available and for the most part limits someone’s achieving a degree. I was hoping to get a two year degree but gave that up. While not impossible to get a degree, it would be excessively difficult.
Overall, how do I assess education inside? Beyond the GED program I’d say they’re not serious or interested in helping the inmate. It’s sad as they create a wasteland for those truly trying to better themselves.
And what is worse is that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has sponsored studies done showing that the higher a person’s educational level the less likely they are to recidivate! The numbers clearly support that education is directly tired to keeping offenders from returning to prison. It would benefit society if the BOP were serious about education. It’s one more example of how there’s essentially no focus on rehabilitation for the inmate.
If you have any questions about life on the inside, please feel free to ask.