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Prison Education…

After my first year in prison, 1990, I was called into a prison factory manager’s office (UNICOR) and informed that my scheduled pay raise to grade one ($1.15/hr.) had been blocked by the Education Department.   He said that they claimed that I did not have my GED.

Start 'em Young

Start 'em young...

     (Congress had deemed that inmates be schooled to at least a GED level.  That without at least a GED they could not go beyond grade 2 pay, among other losses of “privileges.”  To understand the retributive/punishment regimen of the prison system, it is necessary to realize that all rules, regulations and programs also have these facets for inmate control and compliance.) 

     I explained that I did have my GED, that I had got it some 30 years earlier while I was in the Army.  Also, I had completed three years of university before I had gone on to professions in journalism and a career as a criminal defense investigator.  The Business Office Manager referred me to the Education Department, explaining that his hands were tied.

     When I spoke to the Supervisor of Education, he insisted that they had no official documentation of my GED, therefore I would have to take the GED test.  I explained that all the educational documentation is so stated in my Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) file.  He continued to insist that I had to take the test.

     Later, walking the track and speaking with a friend (a college educated general contractor from Virginia), he suggested that I go ahead and take it.  “You’ll ace it with no problem,” he said, “I did.” 

     “You took the GED test when you already have a college degree?” I asked.

     “Sure.  No problem.  They even pay you $25,” he added.   “As bureaucrats, their position looks good when they can point to the numbers passing their tests.  Otherwise, they pretty much got zip, and they got to actually spend a lot of their time trying to educate a bunch of crack and meth heads.”

     I refused to comply.  My six-month Team Review was scheduled and I brought the matter up there.  The Education Supervisor, who also attended, explained that despite what my PSI report stated, he could not know if it was, in fact, accurate.  The Unit Manager supported him, telling me, “Mac, just because it’s in the PSI doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.” 

     Well, this was news to me.  I’d been in the federal Bureau of Prisons long enough to realize that the PSI is normally considered the bible of an inmate’s history.  It’s what goes before the court at sentencing, and follows you throughout your entire prison time and beyond.  

     I replied, “OK, Ms. Sullivan, you go ahead and give me that statement in writing–that just because it’s in the PSI doesn’t necessarily make it true–and I’ll take the test.”   I received my pay raise in my next UNICOR check.  There was no more talk of a GED.

     Postscript:  A couple of years later the FBI came on the compound and took the Education Supervisor and his assistant off in handcuffs.  Seems they had a downtown bank account which they were using to scam the GED and Pell Grant programs.   Give me an honest crook anyday…

                                  Dr. Publico.

Category: Education, Prison Jobs
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