Community Support for the Prison Education Program
The Prison Education Program is supported by many partners who share a belief in the power of education. These notable partners include McGraw-Hill, Addison Wesley, Partakers, and the program and educational staff of the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
Partakers “Education Behind Bars” Program
Partakers enlists local religious organizations to support individual prisoners who hope to qualify for the Boston University Prison Education Program. Partakers volunteers provide support through tutoring, provision of access to research literature and general encouragement. BU students express deep appreciation for their Partakers sponsors, without whom they might not have made progress toward a college degree. Partakers tutors additional provided support to prospective students in preparation for the qualifying entrance examination.
Department of Correction Program, Educational & Treatment Staff
The Department of Correction (DOC) educational staff orients BU instructors at the beginning of their service, and provides ongoing support and guidance throughout the duration of their courses.
The dedication and discipline that the DOC educational staff brings to their work is impressive. They work continuously with the same students for as long as it takes to make progress, and offer support all the way through to graduation. The Education Departments at both MCI Framingham and MCI Norfolk have a strong relationship with Boston University’s Prison Education Program. The Principals at both institutions are both important components of the success of the Boston University Program, and BU faculty work hand-in-hand with DOC education faculty.
Interacting with the Department of Correction
This topic is addressed at length in the FAQ, however, there are a few things are worth singling out here: DOC Attendance Sheets, "Good Time," and your DOC Orientation.
DOC Attendance Sheets
All students, except those serving mandatory sentences, receive "good time" for attending class—a maximum of 2.5 hours per BU class attended. Over a long sentence, this can mean leaving prison weeks or months earlier, so it is very important to our students. It is also important to the DOC that "good time" be recorded accurately and in a timely fashion. The DOC depends on BU faculty to complete Attendance Sheets in order to calculate "good time." It is imperative that we respect and respond to this important function of the DOC by doing our part carefully and punctually.
Students can miss part of a class because of a doctor’s appointment, an arranged canteen (prison store) visit, or even their scheduled haircut. Prisoners cannot alter their schedule and the DOC strictly monitors their location. If attendance sheets have errors that indicate our students are in two places at once, it can jeopardize both the program and our students.
Do not assume that the accuracy of the DOC listing is reflected in your online BU class list. The two are unrelated and should be dealt with separately.
BU professors do not have to complete the calculations for "good time," but we do have to complete the DOC Attendance Sheets after the final class meeting. The completed sheets must be returned to the BU clerk for Framingham or Norfolk. The DOC determines how much "good time" a prisoner who attends BU classes earns.
One student who was in prison for eleven years earned enough "good time" to be released almost two years earlier than his official release date. BU students, whether enrolled in a program or auditing a course, receive 2.5 days of "good time" for every month they attend 80% of the classes held. In practical terms, this means that students must attend all class meetings in a typical 4-week month. Attending 4 out of 5 classes in a 5-week month is 80%. If their attendance is partial (2 out of 3 hours only, due to a doctor's appointment, etc), then partial hours during the month are totaled and can still reach 80%. This information is not intended to guide how you structure your classes, rather to help you understand the meaning of "good time" to our prison students.
No "good time" is available to students unless class meets at least two times in the course of a given month. Therefore, keep in mind when scheduling the start and end dates of your classes. A class held only once during the month is sometimes pedagogically necessary, but it will not allow your students to earn "good time." Finally, prisoners with mandatory minimum sentences are not eligible to earn "good time" at all, but still need to be accounted for on the DOC Attendance Sheets.
New teachers must undergo a brief orientation by the DOC. It need not precede your first day of class, but new faculty should contact school principals to arrange the timing. Before the orientation, DOC staff will expect that you have reviewed the DOC Volunteer Handbook. The following is a list of the orientation requirements for each institution, which apply even to experienced prison education teachers who may not have taught at the institution before:
Institutions vary, so it is important to contact them before the first day of class. This way you can coordinate your orientation for a day that you are already scheduled to go into the prison to teach.
Annual Faculty Colloquium
Once a year we schedule a faculty get-together on campus. This serves as a chance to develop as a group of colleagues, since only one teacher at a time appears at any given prison. It is a useful time to share experiences and teaching strategies; further, due to privacy concerns, it is the only opportunity to speak openly about students with others who may know them. Generally, the BU Prison Education Faculty Colloquium is scheduled after midterms in the fall.