Long ago, I entered college as a forensic chemistry major and worked in law enforcement through a few life changes and college major "adjustments". Criminal justice and forensic psychology remained my passion--even as I moved toward an engineering career. The concept of higher education in prisons was one frequently discussed in my criminal justice "circles"--so I was very interested to read and review Christoper Zoukis' book, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons. What did I think of College for Convicts?
I received a complimentary copy of this book for use in my review. All opinions are my own.
Quick summary of College for Convicts. The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, yet incarcerates about 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Examining a wealth of studies by researchers and correctional professionals, and the experience of educators, this book shows 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 mass incarceration and recidivism problems, this book demonstrates that great fiscal benefits arise when modest sums are spent educating prisoners. Educating prisoners brings a reduction in crime and social disruption, reduced domestic spending and a rise in quality of life.
Zoukis offers a slightly unique perspective. Zoukis makes no attempt to hide the fact that he is currently incarcerated. He speaks a great deal about his own personal issues with attaining higher education in prison--but, also about his own support system and successes. Most of the prisoner education advocates that we read about--or read from--are ex-prisoners. Zoukis offers a very current look at a very old issue.
College for Convicts is loaded with facts and data. Zoukis offers facts, figures, and case studies on virtually every page of this book. He cites many, many sources--and highlights both failures and successes--and discusses everything from recidivism rates to prison life (and its inherent barriers to prisoner education) to prison education success stories throughout the United States and the World. At times, some of the data is repetitive--but, he certainly uses it very well to support his prisoner education stance.
Would I recommend College for Convicts by Christopher Zoukis? I too believe that prisoner education--of some sort--is necessary if prison is to play a role in rehabilitation. While Zoukis offers a very well developed case for higher education in prison--he also, very clearly, addresses the many problems and issues preventing or limiting it in our country. For many readers, the fact that this book is written by a current inmate of a correctional facility may serve as a deterrent. However, Zoukis does offer a fairly well rounded look at the situation from his unique perspective. He does a nice job creating a book about a broken rehabilitation system--casting a bit of due-blame in all directions.
About the author:Christopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles. His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Huffington Post and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.
Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners' rights, and prison education. Recently, he was the focus of an article at Salon.com concerning America's broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.
When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners' rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at PrisonLawBlog.com, PrisonEducation.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com.