New chapters unfolding in New Year for prison education

By Christopher Zoukis

Well, it’s official – 2016 is here and for most of us, the new year is a time to look back at our accomplishments as well as looking ahead with an encouraging push to make this year even better than the last.

All things considered, I had a great 2015. I’ve been working hard in university to finish my BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, which will help further my goal of pursuing my law degree when I am released from prison. I've been enrolled in many other classes to help feed my passion for lifelong learning.

Ban the Box

I’ve also been working with other inmates to help them with their legal challenges - exploring important issues such as transgendered inmates, women's rights, incarcerated parents, Pell Grant funding, solitary confinement and a wide range of post-release initiatives such as Ban the Box.

Another milestone I am very proud of is the redesign of my three websites: www.prisoneducation.com, www.prisonlawblog.com and this site, www.christopherzoukis.com. Plus, we celebrated the success of my latest book, College for Convicts, which won prestigious Montaigne Medal for most though-provoking book in mid-2015.

I've had the opportunity to be published regularly in various news outlets and websites such as the Huffington Post and Prison Legal News, discussing a wide variety of topics related to prison life.

At the same time, I've been pursuing many other educational and personal pursuits, all of which work toward my unwavering and ongoing resolution to help the many others out there who are either facing prison, currently inside jail or just coming out and have no idea where to go or what to do.

I’m proud of my accomplishments, but also acknowledge there’s a long road ahead before my scheduled release in 2018.

Our prison systems still boast the highest incarceration rate in the world, with chronic overcrowding that is only expected to get worse as hundreds of thousands more are placed in cells in 2016 (at the cost of you, the taxpayer). We still have a great deal of injustices our prisoners face not only within prison walls, but also upon release, when convicts struggle with biases from the general population and a lack of education and employment.

America’s recidivism rate is beyond dismal and hasn’t changed much, even though it’s a problem proven to have a solution (education, of course).

With a presidential election this fall and countless issues up for debate, the outcome is anyone’s guess.  But regardless, we will continue work togetherto increase awareness about these prisoner issues that not only affect inmates, but their families, our society and our economy as a whole.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning for 2016. I have some very exciting projects I’m working on and several new books in the works. And after nine years behind bars, I now have just two years left before my release. Two years may seem like a long time to you, but to me, it’s a light at the end of a long tunnel.

There is a lot to look forward to this year, and I am excited to make new goals a reality. I hope you will continue to follow along and help on this journey as we work to improve the American prison and judicial system, and improve our country overall.

We have a lot of work to do, and thank for your support!

Christopher Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com, and PrisonLawBlog.com.