College Guild: Respect Reduces Recidivism But What is Respect in Prison?

I am all for anything that will improve the life of an inmate no matter their crime. This is for purely selfish reasons, believe it or not. Do even the tiniest bit of research and you find that improving the conditions in prison drastically cuts crime rates on the outside. It is one of the biggest reasons that crime is so high in this country as compared to other places. We cant seem to get our fat, American heads around the concept that prison must be a place of rehabilitation and not a money-making venture. Our politicians have a strong hold on the weakest of minds and keep feeding them false information and statistics to gain popular support for this farce despite the rising crime rates.

The few enlightened folks who attempt to do something about it are usually vilified by the village idiots who are happily drinking the Kool-aid from the prison powers that be. Because of this, I hate to knock any organization for trying but sometimes it seems things just haven't been all the way thought through. I had one such experience with College Guild.

College Guild is a free nontraditional correspondence college for inmates. From their website:

Our mission is to stimulate in prisoners an interest in life long learning by providing a selection of free, non-traditional correspondence courses. College Guild is not affiliated with any religious or political group. Our courses are designed to be both thought provoking and fun while encouraging objectivity and creativity. They relieve the boredom of prison life with an opportunity to spend time constructively. For many inmates, our courses are the only contact they have beyond the prison walls.

I first found them 5 or 6 years ago and was ecstatic to help. I signed up to be a teacher with high hopes of using my advanced degrees for something so worthwhile. There are courses in arts, dogs, poetry, justice, drawing, mythology and more. I was immediately saddened however when I heard from the director who told me we dont really teach anything. The students get the information to study and are given a test. Readers receive those tests and are instructed to only give positive feedback. Regardless of the responses from the inmate.

I tried to understand this. They say right on their website that the purpose is no to actually receive a credit but to stimulate a lifelong love of learning. I was confused how to impart this without actually teaching. College guild does not allow readers to talk about their own experiences or lives in relation to the course for fear of a relationship developing although no last names or addresses are even exchanged.

While I admire the effort of College Guild I had to stop volunteering when I received a test from an inmate that was full of racial hate and obvious historical misinformation. I stared at it for so long before I answered, knowing full well that I wasn't allowed to do anything but play along. College Guild advises to write "not suitable for college guild" near anything sexual or violent etc but I find that response sadly lacking both morally and civically.

I really wanted to open up a dialogue with this guy who was either an asshole trying to bait me and dillydally away his opportunity to learn something, however small, or a really confused person who had no clue his thinking was askew. I did correct his ideas to a degree, nothing confrontational, but once I sent it to College Guild, they never sent me another page to grade. I was kind of glad. I didn't feel like I was helping by letting bad behavior slide and obvious misinformation stand in the hopes that he would develop a love of learning. That isn't respect in my book. In fact, its quite the opposite.

Don't get me wrong. College Guild is a wonderful opportunity and it makes a difference for a lot of inmates. I did not find it was for me and I kept looking for a program to make a difference in the way I think is most helpful.


When Families Reach Out

Several times per month I get email requests for help for inmates. Someones mom, sister, brother, cousin - whatever. I try to dedicate most resources to the women on death row but do what I can for anyone in need.

Everything I do here comes out of my own pocket. I have no fund or benevolent benefactor to help me in these endeavors. I depend on you guys. My readers. I get a pittance each month for Google ads which goes straight to inmates, as well as the revenue from my articles and books. I also get about $50 a year in donations from the little box in the left sidebar.

The money I receive does not come anywhere near enough to cover what families and friends ask me to do for their inmates. Therefore, I thought I would list the most recent requests here in the hopes that someone out there will donate a few bucks for a book of stamps or a paperback. It really is less than a cup of Starbucks.


My niece has been in prison since 2007.  Her live in boyfriend beat up her baby daughter (13 month old) while she was at work.  Proven she was at work and didn’t ever hurt her child.  But she was sentenced to 20 years because she “had a knowing” that her bf could hurt her child because she was a victim of domestic violence.  She knew he was violent so she was sentenced.  She was 19 yrs old when her 18 year old live in boyfriend hurt her child.  The child is a perfectly healthy thriving young lady now with now physical issues from when the boyfriend shook her and hit her.  The boyfriend (Chris Good) shot and killed himself instead of going to jail.  Now Elizabeth has been sitting in jail for 10 years on a 20 year sentence.  She could really use your help and expertise if you would please.  We are a tiny family and we are not in Oklahoma to visit her.
It would be so appreciated if you could help her.  Thank you so much.  -Linda

Elizabeth Crafton #556399
MBCC   C-2-C    #215
29501 Kickapoo Road
McLoud OK  74851

Can you please help out my husband?

Simon Peter Kasawa, 371650
PO Box 2308
Mount Clemens, MI 48046

Hello my name is Gayla Mills and my baby sister is in prison I was wondering if u could help her on reading material.
Cheyenne Bowmanher 2016821
Lockhart Correctional Facility unit 78644
1400 industrial Blvd Lockhart TX   

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