College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons
In this book, author Christopher Zoukis, a leading expert in correctional education, lays out a convincing case for providing post-secondary education for our incarcerated population. The statistics are well-known: a huge per-capita prison population in the nation, many prisoners serving sentences on nonviolent drug and immigration violations, the financial and human costs of a huge prison population, and the high rate of recidivism, all of which drain our society of valuable human and monetary resources. Zoukis builds a strong argument of why and how we should address the problem of our overcrowded prisons through college and vocational training behind bars. The author addresses the background and history of prison education in the United States, while also recognizing the validity of the opposing side of the argument, that offenders deserve to be punished, rather than rewarded through valuable education resources. This broad perspective gives credence to Zoukis’s argument that depriving prisoners of educational resources is counter-productive for both the individual and society as a whole.
This is an amazing work in many ways. Its author is, himself, incarcerated, but this book goes beyond the personal argument for prison education, so much so that I was unaware of the author’s background until reading his biography. His perspective is based on research in advancing the case for prison education, that providing for the education of prisoners is important for not only humanitarian, but also financial reasons. The financial and human cost of a large incarcerated prison population with a high degree of recidivism is much larger than educating and returning the population to the larger society. As an addendum, the reviewer, having taught this population, finds it is invariably made up of motivated students who deserve a second chance and return to society, for the sake of the individual as well as the society as a whole.
McFarland & Company