Prison Education Guide, Christopher Zoukis (PLN Publishing, 2016)
What an achievement! This full compendium of educational materials for inmates was written by a federal inmate who publishes often in Prison Legal News, HuffPost, etc—he is a superb writer. And somehow, despite all the odd against his possibility, he has amassed a mountain of useful information, information that should be available in every jail and prison across the United States.
Prison Legal News began publishing the famous Guerilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the United States and Canada in 2007. The author, Jon Marc Taylor, died before he could revise and update that publication. Into that void stepped Zoukis, and he expanded, organized, and editorialized his way into a near masterpiece.
Imagine 268 large, 8 x 10 pages full of information directed at an inmate who desires to educate him or herself. The layout and fonts are easy to follow; side bars highlight points on each page so readers can easily skim before settling in on the answers to burning questions.
Zoukis takes a few pages to hammer home the importance of education on inmates and ex-inmates, avoiding the sap you will find elsewhere. There are no magic bullet; it’s hard; you can get scammed; and yet! Studying and preparing are worth the struggle, and your life will be richer. Thus: start reading.
Which of the paths will suit your background, your interests, your hopes for the future? Zoukis organizes your possibilities into religious studies, vocational/technical schools, 2-yr junior college, and 4-yr college/university. He expands on the pluses and minuses of each.
Next: what you need to know as you search and choose a program: what is accreditation (and quality of school/certification), phony schools, and how to check your eligibility. I found this chapter unique; where else can a reader hear the truth about the scams, the phony ‘professionals’ that take your money but give you nothing in return?
Then there’s always the pesky problem of being able to afford what you want. He examines and lists scholarships for prisoners and ex-prisoners, the academic secret of taking exams in lieu of courses (boy, will schools hate for you to know that!), learning how to find schools that offer credits for life experiences’ (I suspect you have a few!), the horrid costs of textbooks and alternatives to buying them, and even offers advice on getting your institution to qualify to offer tests etc so your costs can go down, way down.
School listings are by levels of degrees, beginning with Ph.D. and Master’s Degrees. There aren’t many, and now most require computer long-distance. Plus, only 5 are accredited, and who needs to pay and study all for … a sheet of paper that doesn’t count most places. Very few of us. But Zoukis plows on, offering a full review of the schools and their possibilities. Next he approaches colleges and junior colleges with the same sharp eye. You will not go wrong if you consult this book before you sign up for an expensive class!
Something I’ve never seen: an annotated list of both fee-based and free Bible Studies courses. Many Inside take these classes for their own comfort and benefit. Good for them! Others use these programs for certificates to aid parole packets. Smart! And yet other inmates study so that they have something to offer the Real World when they rejoin it. The lists in this chapter include career/vocational studies, high school studies that prepare you for college (plus the GED), partial scholarships, and even Personal Enrichment Studies. In almost every selection, he has somehow been able to get a direct response from the school, explaining their policies. You can read for yourself and thus judge for yourself whether it is worth it to use your stamp to inquire further.
Zoukis’ enriched book offers an extensive guide to reentry. He gives the addresses of organizations with publications that can make your job easier, and state reentry programs, financial aid, veterans employment assistance, housing, and even the straight-news report on Important Decisions. Are you sure you know how to go about finding a job? Zoukis’ chapter provides addresses and phone numbers for many government jobs and adult training programs. Be sure to check out all your options; remember that it takes only one job tip if that’s the tip to land your job.
Finally, the elaborate Index provides lists of national, regional, and state-run accrediting organizations. This information is the “Be sure, be safe, be smart” conclusion that includes getting GED documentation, etc.
I wish I could copy a random page for you to see: clear, ease-to-read, helpful marginalia, direct comments from the schools listed.
This book should be on each and every prison library shelf. Ask for it!