Prisoners Struggle with Lack of Education Programs in NY
Upon entering the state of New York's prison system in 1992 I did not have my high school diploma, nor did I possess my GED. I am a high school drop out. Leaving my education behind was one of the biggest errors I committed in my life while coming of age as an irresponsible adult.
My biggest hurdle, besides my own roadblocks, was worrying about how my peers would judge me (in prison) if I was to enroll in the GED class. This prevented me from signing up. In the New York State Prison System (NYSPS) you cannot get a respectable job/program if you lack the credentials of either a high school diploma or GED. The most you can make is $6/bi-weekly. However, if you have this education then you can make as much as $30/bi-weekly. I was hindering myself from earning more money due to an attitude, misinformation, and pride which left me stagnated for many years.
A person incarcerated in NYSPS cannot enroll in any college programs without either a high school diploma or GED. This was another slap in my face when I desired to register in the "free" college program in 1993 while housed at Attica Correctional Facility.(1)
In 1999 the assistant to the leader in the Islamic Chaplain ordered me to enroll in the GED program when he learned I did not have either a diploma or GED. I enrolled in a GED class and after earning it in 1999 I enrolled in the Inmate Program Assistant (IPA) course which I completed with honors allowing me to land a program as a Teacher's Aid.
Through the years from 1992-1999 I witnessed a drop in the GED graduates among the prison population. This was partly due to, in my observation, the lack of concern the civilian teachers(CT) had for the education of Blacks and Latinos in the classroom, deficient supervision from the civilian teachers toward the hired IPAs who'd rather play cards with the student than help them learn, and poor administrative leadership which directly affects almost every student who really does want to learn. Albany administration limited the utilization of IPAs when the civilians failed to compete with the IPAs statistics in turning out more GED grads than the CTs. So a memorandum came down from Albany to reduce some of the IPAs in the classroom.
From 1999-2008 I witnessed a swooping change in the classroom which shocked my conscience. I saw very few IPAs in the classroom who were bilingual (speaking Spanish and English), I rarely saw Spanish-speaking CTs who could relate to the Latino speaking population. This lack of diversity in the State of New York prison system is hindering the chances for Latinos.
My experience at Barehill Correctional Facility will shock your mind, because of the laziness of the CTs who sit in boardroom chairs, leaning back reading the latest James Patterson novel, with no care in the world. As long as the students and IPAs remain quiet, everything is okay! The CTs get paid for sitting in a classroom doing absolutely nothing, just making sure the students don't tear up the classroom or fight one another. I have written Albany to explain the downfall in the classroom only to be dubbed the troublemaker, whistle blower, or snitch amongst the prison administration in NYS.
Right now I am struggling to continue my education in this facility. It is very difficult to pursue higher education in this facility because of the mindset of the administration (prejudice, racist, and bias) toward the Blacks and Latinos who desire superior education, as opposed to working as a porter around the compound. The waiting list for enrolling into school is at least 3-4 months. By that time many of the prisoners are preparing to either go home, see the board of parole, or transfer to another facility. According to some of the prisoners at Adirondack CF, there are only two civilians teachers who serve the population.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Lack of educational opportunities is a major element of national oppression in the United $tates. As we wrote about in an article on Affirmative Action, it is not just in prisons where the schools are inadequate. This is part of the system that prepared Blacks and Latinos for prison. One benefit of an education is jobs that pay higher wages, but the primary reason we focus on education for our comrades behind bars is to raise their political consciousness. Learning basic reading and writing skills is the place to start. We encourage all of our comrades behind bars to take advantage of any prison education programs you can find.