I have invested a considerable sum of my own money over the years, several thousand dollars, in fact, into purchasing books for prisoners, from relatives to friends and acquaintances, while working and attending college in free society myself.
The books that I most frequently purchased were GED study guides for those who’d dropped out of school, in addition to reference books like dictionaries/thesauruses, and even legal publications for those who I thought and still believe could become outstanding attorneys or better.
I’d also purchase uplifting books by Bishop T.D… Jakes, like “Loose that Man and Let Him Go,” and “So You Call Yourself a Man,” and “Gifted Hands”… and “The Big Picture” by Dr. Benjamin Carson, “Africans in America” by Charles Smith and Patricia Johnson, etc…
I’d ship the books through bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, where I made the purchases, as the correctional facilities where they were destined did not allow for shipment via the post office, out of concern that unlawful items could have possibly been hidden in the books or packaging.
I was always elated to receive book reports within a week or so, amused that the several books that I sent would have been read within very brief periods of time, and mind you that these are individuals who’d never read a book in entirety in their lives.
My antennas perked as I considered how impactful formal/compulsory education in prison settings could be, since our public school systems have permitted the error of allowing teenagers to drop out of school, a significant portion of whom now comprise more than half of the prison population…
I believed and still believe that the education of prisoners is one of the most important or vital elements of mending society, and that education should not only be available for all prisoners, it should be compelled, noting that doing so would not take from education in free society.
In addition to reducing recidivism and saving prison costs, it would actually generate billions of dollars when former prisoners are employed in high-paying jobs, are running businesses with the knowledge that they’ve acquired, and are paying income taxes, and spending on homes, vehicles, etc.
Two of the several who I sent GED study guides and other books to actually acquired their GEDs. One of them is my cousin, Curtis, photographed here in his cap and gown. The other is Andrew Gilchrest, a family friend whose mother was the subject of the essay that I wrote to win the grand prize of a $10,000.00 scholarship from Coca Cola Enterprises my senior year in high school…
In both cases, and because a mere GED was not a sufficient or wholesome remedy, both landed back behind bars. After leaving prison with his GED, Curtis matriculated into and reached the door of graduating from Remington College, but encountered some challenges with his financial aid that prevented him from doing so, challenges that should be proactively addressed by academic advisors for Curtis and other students in both free society and prison who should not merely be recruited, but graduated.
Incorporating learning/computer labs into all prisons and availing online educational opportunities to all prisoners, and hiring on-site or visiting academic advisors who would help student prisoners to select intelligible majors,* stay on course, and graduate would facilitate the process (*i.e. those that would enable participants to obtain jobs that they would actually be able to acquire, considering the circumstances under which they are incarcerated, and, preferably, those that are great-paying and in high demand).
Correctional facilities should be just that, not a haven for committing the very crimes that have landed many behind bars. Every detainee should be given a correctional plan and be required to follow a routine/printed class and work schedule to align with that plan.
Re-instatement of Pell Grants to prisoners… IS one of the the most intelligent acts of the ages, and not just for the sake of prisoners, but as a matter of public safety for the whole of society that is vulnerable to and/or affected by crime…