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College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons

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Provide education to prisoners and they won't return to crime. America accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world's prisoners with about 2.3 million men and women in U.S. facilities. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book finds an irrefutable conclusion: the likelihood of an undereducated prisoner returning to crime is high, but recidivism rates drop in direct correlation with the amount of education prisoners receive, and the rate drops dramatically with each additional level of education attained. Presenting a workable solution to America's over incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners, instead of dedicating exponentially higher resources to confining them. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.

290 pages, Paperback

First published October 14, 2014

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About the author

Christopher Zoukis

6 books9 followers
Christopher Zoukis, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a boutique federal prison consultancy specializing in federal prison preparation, resolution of in-prison matters, and reentry success.

His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

Mr. Zoukis is a law student at the University of California, Davis School of Law, where he is the Vice President of the Criminal Law Association and Students Against Mass Incarceration. He is also an Articles Editor of the UC Davis Law Review and member of the Trial Practice Honors Board.

He earned his Bachelors of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business Administration and Legal Studies) and Masters of Business Administration from Adams State University.

He has received recognition and awards for his writing from the American Bar Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Pen America Center, Foreword Magazine, IndieReader, and other book and writing organizations.

He can be found online at Federal Prison Information.

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for R.
73 reviews
November 11, 2014
This books presents the case that education should be something that everyone has a right to- especially if they are in prison. Not everyone will choose to learn or try to become a better person while behind bars, but if they do then they should have the right to do so. This book provides a good case for addressing the government in the U.S to examine the rate of recidivism and shows the benefits of letting those behind bars choose education and help everyone around them.

Disclosure- This author is a client of mine and the book was provided to me free of charge. However the review is my personal one and I find this one really interesting!
Profile Image for Frank McGirk.
747 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2017
First of all...there's a HIGH level of repetition in this book, though some of this can be forgiven because of the vast amount of research that supports Zoukis's main point: education reduces recidivism.

In fact there's so much info supporting this, that the early chapters almost seem to contradict themselves (as the cost savings per dollar invested in ed. varied from state to state) rather than provide extra proof.

However, it's a fault stemming from a commitment on Zoukis's part not to create merely an empathetic appeal (something that, interestingly, Zoukis points out was perceived as weakening the former-convict lead reformations of prison) but a fact-driven, rational argument for higher ed in prison. Some facts: 70-85 percent of released prisoners will be back in prison in 3-5 years. 93-95% of prisoners will get released at some point. Completing SOME high school courses drops it to 54%, voc ed drops recidivism to 30%, Assoc degree to 13%.

I would have liked to see more facts supporting some of the other benefits of education in the prison that he mentions repeatedly: a decrease in violence within the prison itself and a "softening" of the prisoners who take the courses.

Although he did rouse in me my hopes in the power of a liberal education to transform people, unfortunately one of his major points seems to be at odds with what's happening to graduates on the outside: the opportunity to become contributing members of society. I feel that people are in general trusting less and less that a college education is a wise investment even for non-convicts.

I would be interested to see research on the recidivism of students with vocational training coupled with liberal arts classes.

As someone about to enter in to teaching college classes in a prison, I am happy to think I may have an impact, and I appreciate the time he took on describing the barriers to education for many inmates (one I hadn't anticipated was the 50-80% rate of learning disabilities among the prisoners), even when classes are available. However, it kind of made me wonder if the recidivism rates will be as low when it's not just the amazingly driven who are able to achieve education. Hopefully we'll get a chance to find out some day.

Overall, worth the read, but I really wish that it had been edited to be at least a good third shorter.
Profile Image for Becky Willis.
59 reviews4 followers
February 5, 2015
When I decided to do a review on this book; I really had to reach deep within myself. Why you ask? For a long time I have felt that convicts in our prison system should not be allowed to go to college for free. They have done something bad enough to land themselves in prison; why should they be afforded college? Especially when there are so many young adults out there that would love to go to college; but even with financial aide it is still not affordable .

So when I started reading Christopher Zoukis’s book, “College for Convicts”, I felt he brought up a lot of great points. He is very well educated on this topic and I value what he had to say in his book. He shows a workable solution to put this idea into place. Christopher also shows that with each level of education a prisoner receives there is a less violence, crime and social disruption.

I recommend this book to anyone that has ever discussed this idea with others. Christopher will give you insight you might not have had prior to reading his book.

College for Convicts is an interesting read and I would bet it would raise thoughts that you possibly didn’t think about before reading.
Profile Image for Maria.
156 reviews24 followers
April 2, 2015
An interesting read on a subject I never really gave much thought to. detailed and matter of fact this book covers both the need for and lack there of opportunities for continuing education for the incarcerated. It shows clearly how prisoners when denied the opportunity for potential betterment are left no other choices if and when released to continue on as repeat offenders. This book rings especially true since the author himself is in fact incarcerated and has personally done everything he can to try to educate himself within the system. the author has also included a list of charities and organizations that the reader can donate books and resources to, which I plan on making good use of.
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