Educating the Incarcerated

Submitted to JSTOR Access in Prison's Second Chance essay about difficulties obtaining college credits while at Rikers Island

Educating the Incarcerated

By Dilliana Edwards at Rikers Island

While being incarcerated I was offered one opportunity to enter a college course. This college course included many exceptions which excluded myself and several other inmates entrance into the course. One exception subjected to not being placed in general population at Rikers Island due to Covid demands that you remain in new admissions for 14 days to quarantine. If someone then contracts Covid while in new admissions by chance, which in fact happened, you are required to quarantine an additional 14 days.

An announcement was made to new admits about one college course per semester, knowing new admits were ineligible due to house criteria solely. Another exception, only a few seats is offered per each semester. A major discrepancy in addition to only a few seats is there is only course a semester. what are inmates subjected to do now while time passes? I'll tell you what inmates do. Lose their sanity and subdue Insanity by Medical prescriptions.

Less drug funding more Creative Education credit based funding. Medical prescriptions for diseases are just that disease, easing the pain when the pain surpasses the drug dis-easing then doctors double-dose. How about creative college courses more than one a semester as an alternative? If not, what are you to do now? you complete high school and the one college course a semester that is given your exempt. How can you further your education with no opportunities given?

Keep asking social services and school department of corrections to receive constant answer “try again next semester”. Educational growth opportunities for a inmate relates to education for Red Zone / poor neighborhoods which is poor to none. Who can we inmates, people, demand a change for better education from? Government knows if we know better we do better. So instead they continue to do less and we do worst. Better education instead of jail tablets I say. Education Beyond GED / high school diploma needs improvement.Justice begins with wisdom and knowledge. In conclusion, better education resources is necessary for the incarcerated.

Editor's Note:

Dilliana is 21 years old. She lived "outside" since she was 11 (meaning unhoused), was in detention until she was 18, then she entered the shelter system. She earned a GED and enrolled in aeronautical engineering classes at college, but is now in Rikers on a probation violation. She is the mother of a six-month old, Bailey. Her photo was taken outside the facility from an earlier release.

A common theme in these submissions is the inaccessibility of education - even when it is offered inside a jail or prison. I was surprised that in 2023, COVID-19 protocols were still interfering with a person's access to education in jails and prisons. I chose Dilliana's handwritten submission because it addressed so many themes, and she was the youngest person to submit an entry.

Image credit: Dilliana Edwards