By Christopher Zoukis
A friend approached me the other day and inquired as to whether I knew anyone at my prison who would be a good pre-GED instructor/tutor. As I thought about it, a few names came to mind, but they were all people from years past. They were the former MIT instructor who once toured China teaching engineering. Or the man who recently died — Rick Foster — who held a master’s in education. Or even another good friend of mine who used to teach graphic arts at a small liberal arts college. But as I ran through the list of people who would be good candidates to ask, I realized that they all had either been released from prison, died in prison, or had transferred to a lower security prison. Thus, I was stumped.This conundrum bothered me since I figured that I would be a good person to ask such a question. After all, I’m more of the publishing guru in these parts (this has a lot to do with my past teaching of the Writing and Publishing Adult Continuing Education class). As such, those interested in a higher calling while incarcerated — regardless of what it might be since high achievers tend to write about their exploits — tend to come to me for advice and direction. This instigated the topic for this post. How would a prison educator locate qualified inmate instructors to teach in their classroom? Here are some ideas:
Many in the world outside of prison wouldn’t believe that talent lies behind bars. The thought of a prisoner possessing a professional doctorate, being an English major, or even managing an advocacy network would be much too taboo to contemplate.
Luckily for us, we know the truth of the matter: that there are a number of highly qualified inmates which can be put to good use in leadership positions. The question then becomes how to find them and how to maintain their interest.