Sunday, March 22, 2020

A letter from Byron Brown about Education in Prison

Byron Brown is currently an inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY. He asked to share an aspect of prison life which many people on the outside might be unaware of. This email from Byron arrived on March 22: 

Dear Readers, 

I'm writing this post to share my personal experiences with educational programs within prisons in New York State Department Of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The majority of Americans don't realize that the educational programs in prisons aren't adequately sufficient for prisoners to make a successful transition back into society.

Byron Brown

I'm speaking about the vocational programs in which, prisoners are offered in NYS DOCCS. The majority of these vocational programs nolonger have a NYS Department of Labor Certification. Therefore, this administrative decision to nolonger offer NYS Department of Labor Certified Vocational Programs has placed prisoners in a huge disadvantage socially upon exiting prison. The reason why prisoners are in a disadvantage socially once they leave prison, when they are interviewed by a potential employer. The employer will not hire them without a NYS Department of Labor Certification. An employer will hire someone who has a NYS Department of Labor Certification as opposed to a regular vocational certificate. (Think about the general differences between those vocational certification programs). Why would an employer hire someone who doesn't have the best qualification? In my opinion the person with a vocational certification from the New York State Department of Labor has the best qualification. Although, I don't have this mindset when it comes to the higher educational programs in prisons.

Presently, in NYS DOCCS there are several college programs offered to prisoners in which, they could earn degrees, i.e. ( a Master's in Theological Studies, Bachelor's in Behavioral Science, & Associate's in Arts and Humanities). Prisoners wouldn't have been afforded this opportunity without the assistance of philanthropists, volunteers, and college administrators in which, they understand the importance of education. Education will only empower individuals, it enriches their lives. I'm fortunate in this regards to have taken advantage of educational opportunities offered in NYS DOCCS prisons.

I understand that the economical costs of educating prisoners is really expensive for tax payers. I'm only suggesting that legislators introduce proposals, in which prisoners could pay back the money for their educational programs upon reentry into society. For example, they could do volunteer work within their respective communities. Community leaders could make the decisions on where to place prisoners as volunteers. I don't want to be to specific on any of the placement aspects, because someone who's an expert should make that determination. I would just prefer that legislators give prisoners more added incentives towards educating themselves. Overall, this idea has tremedous benefits from a socioeconomic perspective. I think legislators have been very reluctant to introduced these type of prison educational reforms mainly due to political opposition. However, there will come a time in which legislators have to give credence to these type of ideals for societal purposes.

Byron Brown

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