What type of person do we want to b released into society: The struggles of education oriented inmates in Texas

Chapa, Abel



What Type of Person Do We Want To B Released Into Society The struggles of eduaction oriented inmates in Texas By Abel Chapa Inmates should better themselves while in prison. This is a common expectancy of soceity and prison systems give merit to this expectation by providing rehabilitation programs available to inmates. In TDC there are several educational programs that give the inmate an opportunity to better thesleves by seeking out a higher education and graduating various forms of schools and trainings. Inamtes who choose to better themselves find all sorts of barriers in place that slow the progress and process down, often times to a complete hault. It is a truggle to better oneself in prison with so many factors working against them. TDC has Windham, a state run school as well as different types of colleges. Here on Luther aspiring students have the Opportunity to attend Windham trades or GED training. We also have Lee College vocational and degree programs. It seems logical to assume that society wants an educated, better equipped person to be released into free world after the inmate has served the prison term. But who gets oto decide what kind of person gets released on parole and why? What kind of person would you want to be released? Upon exploration of the enrollment process one would find that it is a tedious one. The amount of Signatures on the applications and agreements rivals those of any University. This is a typical Struggle experinced by would be students everywhere. However there is another struggle experinced by inmates, getting there. There is a series of administration buidlings on Luther. They are seperated accordingly to the houseing areas where the inmates live. Needless to say we are locked up. We can't jsut ask to be let out. Yet there are times when inmates must leave the housing areas for various reasons. One of those reasons would be to enroll in school When an inmate has an appointment anywhere outside the housing area we are given a "Lay in pass". This is much like a hall pass and it allows the inmateleave the housing area. We simply present it to the officer on duty and they are suppose to let us out. We simply present the lay-in to the officer on duty and the officer confirms our houseing, name and tdc number and matches it with the roster and lets us go to our appointment. Inmnates who have layin's appear on several rosters including those held by rank and the administration buildings. The redundancy of the roster system is to be able to schedule movement and activities, and to keep track of where inmates are at all times. But the most important function of the lay-in and what matters most to the inmate is to be let out of our holding area and be given passage to go to where we need to go, in this case college/school enrollment. This is where the trouble lies. I have had several problems getting out of the dorm and have missed appointments or arrived late due to the ineffeciency of the lay-in process. TO my understanding there is no protocol for the lay-in process. No recognizable protocol at least, and non that has been enforced. Common examples of my lay-in experinces concerning education would be officers announcing for the lay-in holding inmates to "get ready", hours before the lay-in is set to be. The call out process may tranvers shifts so the arriving shift on duty have no awareness of what has been called. Sometimes there are batches of lay-in called out for different times, and specific times may or may or may not be called out at all. There may be no warning to get ready leading to late arrivals or missing the appointment completly. Cancelations may occur and are sometimes not announced as well leading to inmates to wonder if they missed their way out of the housing area, often fearing a diciplinary case which may accompany any late arrival or no sshow.The consequences for missing or arriving late may delay the enrollment process further and all restricitons that may apply to such will have a negative impact on parole decisions. There have been many times I have been punished for trying my best to do the right thing. In the case of missing college enrollment, the delay may be up to 13 weeks, the next semester to apply again. Then there is harrassment factors. SOme guards are very appossed to us-pursueing a college educations Speculation leads to the beliefe that officers are jealous of our oppurtunity, or simply think we don't deserve this chance to go to school. As a Lee college student I have gotten use to the officers favorite comment to make when passing them with my school books. That comment being "you did'nt go to school in the world, now all of a sudden you want to get educated." I most certainly went to college before my incarceration, but thats beside the point. The point is that there is nothing prohibiting officers acting any which way they want toward specific populations of inmates. They do what they want, and if they don't want to let me out to go enroll for my next semester, they simple ignore me and thats it on their part. I am then put in a position that I would have not been in if I were to just give up on school. If i decide to continue my education I am not left with many tools to hold officers accountable for breaking the rules. IN TDC we have a grievance process that we my use if an officer acts outside the scope of TDC policy, howver the grievance process isw flawed as well. It may take months for the grievance to be processed. There is always fear of retaliation from said officers or their friends, (both officers and other inmates). Many times grievances may be returned with the common statement saying, "there is no evidence for your claim." The grievance process is designed in such way that most inmates choose not to employ it. There is also no outside oversight of the grievance process and all efforts to try to get one have been met with great resistance in the Texas Legislature. There is also a sytamatic undertone of prejudice toward specific students seeking higher education. To be clear students may be classified loosely into two different types. Theifollowing are those types, Windham-which is GED and blue coller trades. This school is free to all inmates. Then there is College, "higher education" for those students seeking degrees in particular areas of interest, college is not free. Windham students are given full time student status so they don't have jobs and can be fully dedicated to their studies. Their classrooms are air conditioned and heated during the appropiate seasons. This is a huge plus since TDC units are mostly not climate controlled. (efforts to accomplish this has also been met with resistance in the Legislature.) College students still have jobs and must manuever themselves through difficult avenues discussed earlier as well as the norms of prison. College classrooms may or may not be climate controlled. Now one may easily argue that innocent "regular" people absent of ciminal records and prison sentances experience the same struggles so why should inmates convicted of felonies be spared these common conditions. Some may even argue that inamts should be greatful we are recieving such oppurtunities. Some would even go as far to say we should not have access to these programs. The opposite camp may be under the belief that inmates were sentanced to prison as punishment, not for punishment. Therefore if certain barriers can be removed with the intent of giving the would be student/ possible college graduate an easier softer way, why not. It comes down to the wuestion of "what kind of person do we want released into society." Most inmates will be released one day. There is many barriers put in front of an inmate seeking a college education. Few make it to the enrollment process, even fewer graduate. Most will be released either sooner or later. Will there be struggles upon release? Will these struggles both inside and outside amplify my character in a positive way? I am greatful for holding college credentials and proud of myself for accomplishiing this in prison. I veiw my struggles as challenges to overcome. But is that the case for all or even most of my fellow inmate students. Will they be greatful? Will they view themselves as a beacon of creative positivity eager to contribute to society and start a new life, or will they be resentful at the establishment, holding bitter grudeges and jealous feelings toward their nieghbors, peers and family.What plans and goals have been formed in the mind of an integectual convict that has been given formal college education? Most importantly will this person newly released from prison carry out those plans? end Essay by Abel Chapa 9/19/21

Author: Chapa, Abel

Author Location: Texas

Date: September 19, 2021

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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