I started teaching in a Canadian prison in the early nineties. I met a few inmates who had been in the prison’s college program in the eighties. All of them were changed people, men and women. Maybe there were some failures, but I never met any. These people had studied literature and science and math, all the usual programs of a university degree. The instructors came from a near-by university, Simon Fraser University. I never saw the program in action, but I learned about it from the students and from comments made by administration.

  •             Sarah seemed to know who she was after taking the program. She was no longer a failure, a drug addict, but she was a proud woman who was ready to write and to teach at a high school level. While she was in college, she stayed in the prison’s infirmary in this all-male prison.
  •             Tom learned about the environment and after his release, he became an environmental employee for the government.
  •             I don’t know where Luke ended up, but I could tell by talking to him that he was finished with the life of crime.

Why did the administration kill the program? I got a lot of different answers from people:

  • Because the average family had to pay for university education for their children and these evil convicts were getting it for nothing.
  • Because a degree was too much for the average convict. Never mind literature or science, these guys needed a good welding program.
  • Because graduates of the program began to question everything in the prison and in fact the whole institution.

Parents know that a high school diploma is not enough in today’s world. Their children need a college education, even a master’s degree, to succeed. Yet the prison system stops at grade twelve. If a student wants more, he has to pay for it himself or herself.

This is why I started a bursary with the John Howard Society. This group helps inmates in prison and out of prison. They give a tax-receipt for donations. Inmates apply for the grant and if they succeed, the John Howard Society sends money not to the individual but to the institution. This year three inmates split twelve hundred dollars, rather their universities did.

The only fund-raiser for this project is me. I’m not very good at that, but I want it to succeed. I really do believe that education is the way out of crime. I’m going to change the way I sell my 7 books – 25% of the sales will go to this bursary. That’s a little more advertising and a little more money.

I’d appreciate any suggestions about how to advertise this bursary.

P.S.  “Harsh Justice: Comparing Prisons Around the World” would be a great fit for your blog. Here’s the link: http://www.criminaljusticedegreehub.com/worldprisons/.

P.S. #2 “How Big Is the Drug Trade?”, that I think falls right in line with theme of your blog. Here’s the link: http://www.top-criminal-justice-schools.net/drug-trade

  1. I have heard all of the reasons that you note for stifling education programs in CSC institutions from staff, inmates and former teachers. They are all true. Most important though, is the general inability and disinclination by CSC management and staff to do anything at all by way of rehabilitation. if you take the Act, their Policies and Procedures, their (utterly dishonest) assertions in their Annual Reports, and the Commissioner’s Directives, you would imagine that rehabilitation is half their job, as it should be. They do almost none of it.

  2. jcommittedk says:

    I think the culprit again may be fear. Fear that these “cons” will become “too smart for their own good” or smarter even than the people who are watching after them.

    We certainly would not want to bring prisoners up to the same level–we might have to look at them as human beings.

    In fact, people who already have degrees and end up in prison seem to be given a much harder time by staff than the painters and welders.

  3. Great article we agree that education of any kind either by reading books by educating each other while in prison is good way of getting yourself back together. Here in the UK the ban on books entering prisons is already affecting prisoners. Books and education can help redirect an inmates frustration to studying rather than getting involved in riots and drugs.

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